Between 70% to 80% of adults in the United States experience back pain in their lifetime.
Back pain is one of the most common health problems for Americans. It’s a leading cause behind people seeking out an orthopedic surgeon or neurosurgeon. A shocking 5% to 10% of those who visit a physician for back pain develop a chronic problem with their back.
Many people experience back pain due to stenosis. Every year, almost 100,000 adults get surgery for spinal stenosis.
Back cracking is a common method many people use to help relieve pain. There are many myths surrounding back cracking, some are true and some aren’t.
In this article, we’ll cover all the basics of back cracking and whether or not it’s harmful to you.
What Is Back Cracking?
Back cracking is the process of bending or twisting your back to relieve pain or tension.
A loud cracking sound doesn’t always occur from popping your back. When you do hear a cracking noise, it’s from the spine’s facet joints slipping from their normal position as air pockets are released.
The technical term for the sound you hear is crepitus.
Why Does It Feel Good?
The release of pressure often provides a feeling of relief.
Brack cracking also results in endorphins being released. Endorphins are chemicals from the pituitary gland that help with the management of pain. When you crack your back, those endorphins flood your body and give you a sense of feeling better.
Can Back Cracking Hurt You?
If done sparingly, cracking your back is safe and won’t cause any harm. If done too often, then yes, some risks come with it.
Let’s dive into a few of the myths surrounding back cracking, as well as the real risks involved.
Does Back Cracking Cause Arthritis?
This is the single most common myth surrounding back cracking. Popping your knuckles often are also included in this.
Back cracking won’t cause arthritis or joint enlargement. If done too often, however, back cracking can lead to feelings of stiffness and even some minor swelling.
Can Back Cracking Stunt Growth?
This is yet another myth. This myth got started because fluid or gas can be released in between the vertebrae from cracking. These fluids or gases were believed to be able to stunt the growth of your body.
When you crack your back, you release pressure between spinal discs. Spinal discs have nothing to do with growth.
Can Cracking Your Back While Pregnant Endanger the Baby?
In general, no. As long as you’re careful while cracking your back, there is no threat posed to the baby. Any pain or discomfort you do feel is likely due to the weight of the baby.
If you have any concerns about vaginal bleeding, ectopic pregnancy, or toxemia, you should not crack your back yourself. Instead, seek out a professional.
Pinched Nerves Can Happen
If you crack your back with too much force or do it too fast, you can pinch a nerve. Pinched nerves can be excruciating and knock the air out of you.
A pinched nerve can linger for weeks and limit your mobility. In these instances, you’ll need to seek out a professional to get it resolved.
Joint Strain Is Possible
Though not common, if you crack your back with too much force you can cause joint strain.
When you crack you back too often, you wear down the joints. This then leads to the joint swelling or even breaking down.
Be Wary of Tearing a Muscle
Another risk of cracking your back with too much force is muscle tears.
There are muscles around your back. This also includes your neck and hip, where muscles attach from those to the spine. A strained muscle is painful to move, whereas a torn muscle will often require surgery.
Blood Vessels Can Be Damaged
By cracking your back too much, you run the risk of injuring blood vessels.
This can happen because important blood vessels trace up and down your back. Some even connect to your brain.
A damaged blood vessel can lead to blood clotting. Blood clotting is a condition that spirals into worse conditions fast. Some dangers of blood clotting include strokes and aneurysms.
Hypermobility Is a Common Risk
Every time you crack your back, you move a joint past the normal range of motion it’s meant for. When you do this, you stretch all the surrounding ligaments.
When a ligament is stretched too often, it begins to elongate or can even sprain. Once this occurs, joint instability is often a result as they’re unable to support and hold their correct position.
Slipped Discs Do Occur
The last risk of cracking your back is slipping a disc in your spine.
Slipped discs result in massive amounts of pain. Mobility is often impossible when a slipped disc occurs. If the discs are worn down too much, it can turn into a chronic condition that may require surgery to correct.
Be Safe When Cracking Your Back
If you insist on cracking your back yourself, the best way is to stretch the back muscles. Yoga and pilates give great results when it comes to stretching your back muscles without damaging anything.
Some exercises can even help reduce chronic back pain. Another positive side effect of doing exercises meant to help with back pain is that your range of motion will increase.
If you don’t feel safe or comfortable with popping your back, visit a professional. Some places use activator methods to help relieve pain. This wellness programs designed with your safety and comfort in mind.
Everyone’s Back Is Different
The key takeaway here is that back cracking doesn’t usually result in serious injury.
However, like with all things, you should crack your back in moderation. Doing it too often applies unnecessary strain and pressure.
Instead of cracking your back, consider adopting a regular stretch routine to help with stiffness or soreness. Everyone’s body is different and what works for one person may not for you.
We hope this guide helped dispel a few myths surrounding back cracking and empowered you to seek treatment if needed. If you enjoyed what you read, please take a moment to browse around the site and see what other interesting articles you can find.