We’ve all been there. After sitting or standing in a certain position for too long, you begin to feel the buildup of some tension and perhaps pain in your neck or back, and are soon twisting, stretching or straining to find that “pop” sound from along your spine and that instant sensation of relief. What’s really happening when you crack your back? Is it safe to do, or are you causing more harm than good?

What Causes the Cracking Sound?

Every joint in your body is an enclosed, pressurized system. The pressure is created by slowly accumulating gasses that are released by cells into the joint fluid. “When you put the liquid under pressure, as happens when force is applied to the joint, the gas exits, creating a pop sound,” explained Dr. Stephen Perle, a chiropractor and Professor of Clinical Sciences at the University of Bridgeport. Interestingly, though we associate the cracking sound with the dissipation of back pain or tension, they actually just coincide as a result of our movement — they are unrelated.

Why Are You Really Cracking Your Back?

If the cracking itself isn’t fixing a problem, what exactly are we doing by twisting and stretching? In an effort to relieve back pain, it’s actually an attempt to accomplish a spinal adjustment by moving the joints in the back beyond their usual range of motion. The problem is that when you crack your back for that relief, you’re actually setting yourself up for even more back pain and misalignment issues:

  • If cracking your spinal joints releases the stabilizing pressure, you’re left with a relaxed, movable joint. Too much movement in your joints makes your muscles work harder to keep them stable, which in turn exhausts your muscles and ultimately makes you feel like you need to “crack” your back again.
  • Repeated adjusting causes even more issues. Hypermobility of the muscles and ligaments around the spine results from their being stretched repeatedly. Normally, the muscles and ligaments have a natural elasticity that helps the spine return to a natural position when you relax. When these structures are stretched too often, they become lax, which results in a hypermobile system that is more susceptible to inflammation and injury.
  • Vertebra that move out of alignment or disc injuries which put pressure on the nerves coming from the spine cause many people back pain or sciatica pain. While reaching for that “pop” for a release and for sciatic pain relief, you may be causing more harm than good by introducing further irritation and nerve pressure.

Chiropractic Care for Safe Adjustments

If you find yourself with the habit of back-cracking for back pain or sciatic pain relief, seeking professional chiropractic care will be your safest and most effective path to healing. At Advanced Wellness & Rehab, we will diagnose the underlying issues and use a comprehensive treatment plan to help relieve your pain, and regain strength and stability. Contact us today!