Why Does Your Back Crack?
Scientists explain that synovial fluid present in your joints acts as a lubricant. The fluid contains the gases oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide. When you pop or crack a joint, you stretch the joint capsule.
Gas is rapidly released, which forms bubbles. In order to crack the same knuckle again, you have to wait until the gases return to the synovial fluid.
In this blog, we take a look at back cracking and what benefits, if any, come of it. We also take a look at what treatments are best to seek for professional adjustments.
Table of contents:
- What happens when you crack your back?
- What is the top reason for a cracking back?
- Can back cracking bring pain relief?
- Is cracking your back dangerous?
- See a chiropractor for a professional adjustment
- Free chiropractic consultation
Many people crack their back, knuckles, and other joints, but what is actually happening when you crack your back, and what causes the popping noise?
Experts have determined that there are a number of factors that give you the ability to crack your joints and result in the popping noise you hear.
Cracking your back stretches squishy capsules on the outer edges of the vertebrae around joints called facet joints.
Stretching these capsules allows the synovial fluid inside them to have more space to move around, releasing pressure on your back joints and muscles and moving your facet joints.
The 'popping' noise that happens can also be identified as a crack, snap, or grind. Everyone is different, and joints that crack on some individuals, do not on others.
However, the most common joints that crack are the back, knuckles, knees, ankles, neck, wrist, and elbows.
Related blog post: 12 Signs that you Should Go See a Chiropractor for your Back Pain
What is the Top Reason for a Cracking Back?
The release of gases in the most common cause of the sound you hear when cracking your back.
In most of your body's joints, there is a trace amount of synovial fluid that acts as a lubricant. This fluid contains gases like nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and oxygen.
The presence of these gases is responsible for the popping noises you hear when cracking your back or your knuckles.
When cracking a joint, you are stretching the capsule and causing the gas to be released at a rapid pace.
This is also the reason you cannot immediately re-crack that same joint. You must wait until the gases are replenished in that capsule of synovial fluid to allow them to crack and pop once again.
Other common causes of a snapping, cracking, grinding, or popping joints include moving tendons and ligaments in your back and other joints.
Occasionally when a joint is moved, a tendon will change positions and move out of place. When it returns to its normal position, you may hear a pop or snap.
In older adults, osteoarthritis is a probable cause of grinding in the joints.
Arthritic joints that are lacking in smooth cartilage have a tendency to 'grind' against each other when moved due to the roughness of the joint's surface.
Can Back Cracking Bring Pain Relief?
Many people are guilty of cracking their back, and you have probably even cracked your back a few times to make yourself feel good.
Is this a legitimate fix for back pain? What happens when you crack a joint? Do you experience that immediate sense of relief? That relaxed and loosened feeling? A feeling of an increased range of motion?
Although cracking your back is nice, you may know it is only a short-term fix for your back.
See, it is not normal for your back to continually need to be cracked in order to feel good and not tight or sore.
Cracking your back is not actually repairing the problem, healing the pain, or relieving stiffness, instead, it is giving you a false sense of relief that will disappear in just a few moments.
It is important to acknowledge the bigger picture and comprehend that something may be wrong, and your spine is probably out of alignment.
You might be having issues with your lower back that need treatment from a chiropractor or a physical therapist, not a good back cracking.
If this problem were fixed, it would reduce the need to crack your back, and you would instead feel relaxed and aligned all the time instead of just for that brief period after cracking.
We want people to know that their backs should not feel tight and stiff on a daily basis. You do not need to live like that!
So if you constantly feel like your back or lower back needs popped, do not wait any longer to contact a professional chiropractor to help fix this problem.
Is Cracking Your Back Dangerous?
Cracking your back is generally not dangerous as long as you do it cautiously and gently. Some rare instances have been known to hurt the spine or nerves due to aggressive cracking and jerking that are not natural.
Most individuals crack their backs by stretching or twisting, in which cases the crack is unavoidable.
Some people argue that cracking causes arthritis, but there is no medical evidence to support that claim.
Now even though back cracking is not dangerous, that doesn't mean it is normal or recommended as a healing technique.
Treat The Issue At The Source
If you have the need to crack your back daily, we always recommend seeking chiropractic care to treat the issue at its source.
This is because some individuals that force their back to crack too often cause more significant pain and discomfort to the area.
You must remember that your spinal discs, cartilage, and nerves are fragile and delicate and should only be treated by a chiropractor who is a professional in performing manual adjustments.
So although it feels good to crack your back, always be gentle and avoid any type of force.
However, when it comes to adjusting your spinal column, leave this job to the professionals and schedule an appointment with a chiropractor. You do not want to cause yourself permanent damage and pain by causing one of the discs in your back to slip or herniate.
What is Happening When a Chiropractor Cracks Your Back?
During a back adjustment, your back undergoes quick, gentle stretching of the spinal facet joint, so you may hear a cracking or popping noise. This is caused by small pockets of air or bubbles, which are in the fluid that surrounds a joint.
When joint tissues are stretched during a chiropractic adjustment, the pockets of air "pop," which creates that cracking sound you hear. After this treatment, you may feel more movement in your back. However, the muscles may still be sore and tight.
Your chiropractor may also incorporate other chiropractic care treatments, such as muscle therapy. You should notice more back pain relief with each session.
See a Chiropractor for a Professional Adjustment
If you are experiencing pain in your joints or are experiencing pain when you crack your back, you should see a board-certified chiropractor immediately for a long-term solution.
Even if there is no pain when cracking your back, the need to constantly crack your back is a sign of a greater issue, perhaps with your spinal cord.
A chiropractor can perform adjustments and give you medical advice that relieves discomfort and realign your spine to prevent the need to crack your back perpetually.
The chiropractic doctors at Arrowhead Clinic are experts at treating musculoskeletal and spinal injuries that cause back pain and have been a trusted name for nearly 40 years.
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