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Is It Bad to Crack your Back? Side Effects and Risk Factors

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You may enjoy cracking, manipulating, or adjusting your back mainly because it feels good and brings some sense of satisfaction.

Even though a spinal adjustment doesn’t require a cracking sound for it to be effective, hearing your back crack often provides the feeling or actual sensation that you’ve released some tension, tightness, or pain.

In general, it’s safe for you to crack your back and the act may promote feelings of relaxation and improve range of motion. However, you may find that addressing and treating the underlying concerns with your back will make you less likely to want to crack your back too often.

Is it bad to pop your back?

In general, it’s safe to crack your back, but there are still plenty of reasons surrounding the idea that it’s a harmful practice. Below are some risks, myths, and side effects of cracking your back.

Can you get arthritis from cracking your back?

One of the most common myths related to cracking your joints, including your knuckles, is that it will lead to arthritis.

However, this won’t cause arthritis nor will it cause joint enlargement. Back cracking and chiropractic care may help to ease some symptoms of arthritis. However, it could also aggravate symptoms such as stiffness and swelling.

Is it bad to crack your back while pregnant?

Cracking your back while you’re pregnant is fine as long as it’s done with caution. Be aware that discomfort you may feel in your back could be due to the weight and position of your baby. Cracking your back may be more difficult as your pregnancy progresses.

You may wish to find a chiropractor who specializes in prenatal care. Adjusting your spine while pregnant isn’t recommended if you have any concerns like vaginal bleeding, ectopic pregnancy, or toxemia. Avoid any twisting or movements that put pressure on your abdomen.

Keep in mind that your body produces increased levels of the hormone relaxin during pregnancy. This helps you to be more flexible during delivery, but it can also cause you to overstretch. You may want to consider pregnancy yoga stretches to relieve general aches and pains.

Joint strain or nerve injury

While injuries aren’t common, it’s possible to hurt yourself by using too much force or pressure when cracking your back or doing it too often.

This can cause too much wear and tear on your joints, leading to joint strain, swelling, and even breakdown. It can also cause damage to the soft tissue of the joints.

Does cracking your back stunt growth?

Since fluid or gas may be released in between vertebrae when you crack your back, it’s been said that this could cause stunted growth. This isn’t the case.

Cracking your back relieves pressure between spinal discs, which isn’t related to growth. Instead, growth occurs at the epiphyseal plate in long bones.

Can you get a slipped disc while cracking your back?

Rarely, cracking your back causes a slipped disc, or upsets an existing one by irritating it or moving it in the wrong direction. You should exercise caution when cracking your back if you have an existing disc or vertebral injury as it could exacerbate your symptoms.

Hypermobility (ligament laxity)

Each time you move a joint past its normal range of motion, you stretch the surrounding ligaments, which may cause them to elongate or sprain. This can cause joint instability and damaged ligaments since they’re not able to support and hold the joint in the correct position.

Is it bad to crack your back every day?

Cracking your back more than once per day may not be the healthiest option over a long period. Signs of a back condition that requires treatment include incessant pain or discomfort before and after you manipulate your spine.

Instead of cracking your back too often, do gentle stretches and exercises that help improve strength, flexibility, and posture.

If you feel the need to crack your back due to some type of discomfort or feeling that your spine is out of place, it’s best to consult a professional to come up with a treatment and identify underlying causes.

Popping healthy joints too often can cause irritation and give the feeling that you need to continue cracking your back repeatedly. It’s even possible for people to get attached to the idea that cracking their back over and over will align their spine.

Urges to crack your back often could be the sign of an underlying cause that may require treatment. Cracking your back may give you temporary relief, but you should figure out the underlying cause and how you can treat it.

Is it normal for your back to pop on its own?

Your back may pop or grind on its own when you stretch or move in certain ways. This could be due to ligament or cartilage damage, deterioration of a synovial capsule, or osteoarthritis.

If this happens after an injury it could be the result of joint dysfunction due to a fracture or torn ligament, especially if it’s accompanied by pain or discomfort.

When not to crack your back

Cracking your back the wrong way or doing it too frequently can lead to complications. Don’t crack your back if you’re recovering from an injury, have a disc issue, or are experiencing any pain or swelling.

Once a joint is cracked, it takes about 20 minutes until it’s ready to be cracked again. This gives the joint time to return to its original position. Don’t crack your back during this time since you could strain the ligaments. It shouldn’t be necessary to crack your back several times in a row.

Avoid cracking your back if you have:

  • severe osteoporosis
  • spinal cancer
  • high risk of stroke
  • an upper neck bone abnormality
  • numbness, tingling, or loss of strength in an arm or leg

Joints whose movement is restricted may not pop when you crack your back. Instead, you’ll be cracking the healthy joints that can move freely. For a professional spinal adjustment, make an appointment with a chiropractor, physical therapist, or osteopath.

Why your back cracks

Cracking your back is similar to cracking joints such as your neck, shoulder, and fingers. The sound of your back cracking or popping may be due to air bubbles in the synovial fluid surrounding and lubricating your joints.

Putting pressure on this fluid when you stretch or twist your spine causes these gases to be released. The popping sound is the result of nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxide being released from the facet joints.

Joints, tendons, and ligaments can also cause a snapping sound when they are moved in and out of their original position. Arthritic joints may make grinding sounds due to the lack of cartilage.

Takeaway

Cracking your own back won’t lead to any health issues if you do it safely. Avoid cracking your back too often, forcing it into positions, or using too much pressure.

Do stretches and exercises that promote a healthy spine and apply ice and heat to the affected area if needed. Make an appointment with a doctor, physical therapist, or osteopath if you have long-lasting, recurring, or severe symptoms.

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