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What Happens When You Crack Your Back? (Are You Doing Damage?)

Most of us are well acquainted with the relief that comes from cracking a joint. Be it your knuckle, your ankle, or your neck; something feels right after you hear that popping sound. Cracking your back gives you that same relief. Each time you hear that popping sound, something in your back feels like it loosens up, and it feels good. 

Having the occasional urge to crack your back is okay. All of us do and even the best Chiropractors get to crack their knuckles once in a while. However, something is wrong if you feel the need to crack your back all of the time. When you become dependent on that temporary relief you get from cracking your back, it's time to get worried. 

The relief you get from cracking your back is temporary, and it should feel so to your body. Something isn't right if you only feel relief from the constant soreness and tightness of your back when you crack it. At this point, you should make an appointment with a good chiropractor in your area. 

No doubt, cracking our backs makes us feel good, but is it safe to crack your back? Does it hurt? Does cracking your back have any negative effects? 

Let's find out...


First, what happens when you crack your back? 

While cracking your knuckles, your neck or your back, you may wonder, "What makes that popping sound?" 

What gives you the relief you get after cracking your back? Is it the popping sound, or does it at least have anything to do with it? If you have ever wondered, here's the answer to your questions. 


The back is made up of many joints, courtesy of the spine and its attachments to other parts of the skeleton. When you crack your back, what you're doing affects your joints. 

Each joint has an internal fluid, called synovial fluid. You could even feel it in your knee joint when you move it a certain way. The synovial fluid is there to reduce the friction between your joints as you move. 

When you move around all day, you apply pressure to your joints. This pressure builds up over time and forms gases like nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxide. 


When you crack your back, these gases are expelled from your joints. This is the reason for the popping sound you hear when you crack your back. This is also the reason why you can't crack your knuckles twice one after the other. It takes a while for these gases to build up again before you can hear the popping sound. In the meantime, you'll only be stretching your muscles and other soft tissue around your joints if you try. 

The gases that escape your joints don't hang around; they are quickly reabsorbed into the body. 


Why Does It Feel Good To Crack Your Back? 

The answer to this question is still not very clear. Different medical practitioners have their speculations and opinions about this. However, some theories are more widely agreed upon. 

One of them is that the instant relief you feel is a result of stretching your muscles. When you try to crack your back, you twist and turn from side to side. This twisting movement also stretches your back muscles and can relieve some of the tension you may be experiencing. 

Some people feel relief from the stretch. However, others find comfort in the popping sound that occurs at the extremes of the stretching motion. 


Another theory leans towards a psychological direction. Many sensory nerves are associated with the spinal cord. These nerves send information to the brain to be interpreted. When you begin to associate cracking your back with relief, your brain registers this information. So if you crack your back again, your brain might deceive you into believing that you had gotten relief when you didn't. 

Whether the psychological or stretching theory, what is sure is that we enjoy cracking our backs because we feel relief. 


What can go wrong? 

A lot! There are many things could go wrong when you attempt to gain temporary relief from cracking your back. When you attempt to crack your knuckles, there are certain occasions when you go too far. 

In some of these instances, you feel a lot of pain sometimes for a day in that knuckle. This is because you're twisting and stretching it the wrong way. When you do this, you run the risk of hurting yourself far more. 

You could sprain the ligaments in the joint or get something to shift into the wrong position. The pain and discomfort you'll be in would be far worse than the tightness you were trying to alleviate. 

The chances are high that you don't just twist a certain way to crack your back. You may need to maneuver yourself into many near-impossible positions to hear that popping sound. This is not advisable, because you could hurt something else in your spine. 

One wrong stretch or overstretch and you could find yourself battling with a herniated disk or something worse. 

While many times nothing happens, the risk remains, and injuries that affect the spine can be excruciatingly painful and make for a very uncomfortable recovery period. 

In the process of trying to crack your back, you might end up hurting yourself. If you must crack your back, have a professional help. It's best to seek a Chiropractor on these matters, the experience and expertise they bring to the adjustment table can provide a huge amount of relief, and do so safely. 

While cracking your back gives you that instant relief, especially after having them sore and tight, it might not be worth it.  

Rather than risking a more serious injury,  you can always visit a chiropractor to get long-lasting relief. 

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