Nothing feels better than cracking your back first thing in the morning or after a long day at work. Back cracking gives you that familiar glorious feeling of relief as it releases the tension in your spine and other joints in your back.
While it may sound painful, studies found that about 45% of people enjoy cracking at least one of the joints in their body on a daily basis to relieve tension. If you find yourself enjoying a good snap, crackle, and pop, then you are not alone!
The question is: Is it bad to crack your back?
In this post, we will explore the different factors that make your vertebrae crack, dispel some of the most common myths about joint popping, and let you know how to stop the feeling of needing to crack your back all the time.
Why Does Your Back Crack?
There are different causes of cracking.
True joint popping sound:
- Sudden Release of Existing Gas Within the joint lubrication.
The snapping, cracking, and popping sound when the joint is cracked is that it is the result of releasing pockets of gas. When the pressure starts to build up on your joints, it creates pockets of gas that contain carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and oxygen. A quick movement within a joint causes a fast pressure change, and the gases release out of the joint lubrication, creating a popping sound when released. Much like the pop you hear when opening a can of carbonated drink. Once the joint cracks, you won’t be able to hear that sound again for at least 30minutes.
False joint popping sound:
- Shifting Ligaments, Tendons, and Joints
This less-known theory explains that when tendons of muscles become tight, it produces a snapping sound as they shift in and out of their original position over the surface of a rough bony prominence. If the muscle and tendon were not so tense, it would simply glide over smoothly with no snapping heard at all.
This is commonly felt in the hip. People can shift their hip around recreating that snapping noise over and over again repeatedly. This is not the joint cracking; if it was, you would have to wait another 30min before hearing the noise again.
- Bone Grinding
The deterioration of the cartilage surrounding the spinal joint can cause a gritty or grinding sound. When the cartilage loses its natural lubricant (synovial fluid), it causes the joints to rub against each other, this is a different sound thant the popping you hear during a chiropractic joint adjustment. This also can be repeated over and over again with movement.
The way you can know if it’s truly your joint cracking is that a joint can only pop once every 30-40min. Try it yourself! Crack your fingers.. Now within a few minutes, try cracking them again – did you hear any sound the second time at the same joint? Why is that?… because it takes about 30-40min for the gases to equalise after they’ve been released from the quick pressure change within the joint.
Why see a chiropractor? I can crack my own back!
There’s a big difference between cracking your own back and having a chiropractor crack your back. By the way, chiropractors use the term: adjustment instead of ‘crack’.
Let me explain…
You can technically crack any joint in your body whether it’s healthy or not.
The goal of a chiropractor is only to adjust the joints that are subluxated (misaligned, and stuck). You want to leave those that are moving well, and aligned well alone.
It is easier to crack joints that are not stuck. This means that when you crack your own back, you’re likely cracking the joints that are already moving well, and those are are misaligned and stuck (subluxated) remain that way. This may result in the healthy joints to become over flexible (hypermobile), which is not a good thing!
Whereas a chiropractor will precisely only adjust the subluxated joints and get them moving better. The result is a healthier joint, and putting less stress on your nervous system.
In fact, I have seen so many patients tell me that once we’ve improved the alignment of their spine, they no longer feel the need to keep cracking their back!
So if you’re trying to stop cracking your back – start seeing a chiropractor to adjust the joints that actually need cracking, and leave the good ones alone :).
One more comment… I am a chiropractor, and I don’t crack my own back. I can’t assess my own spine to adjust it in the precise direction it needs to move in. I get checked by my chiropractor weekly to reduce my subluxations for optimal spinal health.
Is Cracking Your Back Good for You?
If you’re getting misaligned joints adjusted, yes.
If you’re cracking joints that are already moving well, then no.
A joint that is misaligned and stuck (subluxated) is a form of physical stress on your nervous system. I can’t think of any bad thing about removing stress on your nervous system! Your nervous system controls your entire body. So less stress on it, the better your body functions.
Here at Fairway Chiropractic Centre, we provide complete family chiropractic care in Kitchener-Waterloo. We have more than 25 years of experience and employ a team of professional chiropractors who can treat various types of conditions, from simple headaches to chronic back pain and sports injuries.
Give us a call at (519)748-5535 or fill out our online contact form to book a therapeutic spinal adjustment.