What Happens When You Crack Your Back?

Dec 25, 2021

Have you ever stretched to relieve back pain or pressure and heard a popping noise immediately before you begin to feel better? Often called “cracking your back,” this is a common series of movements for many people. There are a lot of myths about whether this is dangerous or why it happens, and it’s important to understand exactly what is happening in the body during a back cracking. Read on to learn what happens when you crack your back and when it may be a sign to seek treatment for back pain.

The Mechanics of Cracking Your Back

When you crack any joint, including those in the spine, what you are hearing is actually not the bones themselves cracking like many people assume. Instead, you are stretching the squishy capsules that sit on the outer edges of the vertebrae around the joints, known as facet joints. When these capsules are stretched, it allows the synovial fluid that sits inside of them to move more freely, releasing any pressure on your back joints and muscles and moving the facet joints.

The synovial fluid contains small amounts of gases such as nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and oxygen. This gas is released at a rapid pace when you stretch the capsules. This movement causes a “popping” noise which may be identified as a crack, snap, or even a grinding. Not everyone will hear the same noise or any noise at all when this happens.

You may notice that you can’t immediately crack your joints again right after they have made these sounds. The gases have to be replenished in the capsule of synovial fluid before they can be popped again.

Why You Crack Your Back

Most people feel immediate relief when they crack their back as a result of the pressure lowering. If you don’t experience the same pain or pressure soon, this may have been a one-time issue that doesn’t need to be addressed further. But it is not normal for the back to require constant cracking to avoid feeling tight or sore.

Cracking your back does not actually repair any potential problems in your back or heal them. Instead, it masks these symptoms temporarily while potentially allowing an underlying condition to worsen.

In many cases, a misalignment in the spine can be the root cause of your back pain. If a chiropractor is able to adjust your back and remove these misalignments, you may notice that you feel relaxed more often and don’t need to crack your back. A spine in good alignment should not feel tight or stiff daily.

For some people, more serious conditions like osteoarthritis may cause audible movement in the joints.

Is It Dangerous?

In general, it is not dangerous to crack your back, as long as you do it gently and do not feel pain. Some rare cases of aggressive cracking have led to spine and nerve damage, but this is usually a result of unnatural jerking movements. There is no evidence to support the claim that cracking your joints can be a cause of arthritis.

Many people crack their backs unintentionally when they twist or bend, making it unavoidable. While this is not harmful, cracking your back repeatedly or to relieve constant pain can be a sign of other issues that should be addressed. And ultimately, it’s going to benefit you more long-term if you see a professional chiropractor who can adjust your spine with precision and gentleness in order to bring about pain relief and optimal healing and function.

Treating the Root Cause

If you find yourself cracking your back daily, it’s a good idea to see a chiropractor who can help identify the source of your pain and pressure. Many people will discover that the repeated cracking of their back as a treatment leads to more pain and discomfort over time, creating a cycle. The discs, cartilage, and nerves are all delicate and should be treated by a professional who can adjust the spine. This “cracking” of your back is very different than what you do on your own and requires knowledge and experience.

During an adjustment, you may hear noises as a result of air releasing surrounding the joint like you would at home. However, the cracking and motion are a result of targeted adjustments to your spine to return it to alignment. The sound is a side effect here, but an adjustment will do much more to treat the underlying cause of your pain than simply cracking your back.

To see a chiropractor and identify the root cause of your pain, visit AICA Lithia Springs today. Our team of experts will rule out any serious conditions and treat your pain at the source, helping you avoid constant back cracking in the future.


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