Upon waking up or sitting down after a long day at work, many people twist, lean back, curl forward, or contort their bodies to crack their backs and necks. The snap-crackle-pop provides relief, as if each crack elongates the spine and puts you in a state of pure bliss. If that describes how you feel about adjusting your spine, you are not alone. Roughly 45% of people crack at least one joint on a daily basis, but there are those who crack their backs, ankles, knuckles, and necks, primarily because it has become habitual.
What Makes The Popping Sound?
The “pop” that you hear is caused by tiny gas pockets, in addition to lubricating synovial fluid, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and oxygen. When you pull your finger or kink your neck, the fluid becomes pressurized, the gases release, and then you hear that fateful cracking sound. This sound is perfectly normal and there is no reason to fret. You may notice that the sound becomes louder as you age. This can be attributed to the enlargement of joints and repeated biomechanical stress.
Is Constant Cracking Bad For You?
The long-standing legend is that cracking all of your joints, all of the time, is a surefire way to increase your risk of developing arthritis. Doctors have debated about knuckle cracking for many years, and the conclusion is that the consistent cracking of knuckles does not lead to osteoarthritis development. Research shows that knuckle crackers do not have higher rates of arthritis.
What About Neck Or Back Cracking?
The noise that results from adjusting a vertebra is typically benign. Several studies have found that occasionally cracking your neck or back to relieve pressure is not harmful. If you twist to stretch in a yoga class and a small crack occurs, for instance, this is an acceptable crack. Excessive cracking of the vertebrae or forcing a crack habitually can wear down the joints and lead to premature breakdown.
Due to the sedentary lives that most people live, “text neck” and poor posture result in back and neck pain. The quick twist to pop your back or the quick jerk of the neck to relieve pressure temporarily makes you feel better. There is nothing wrong with adjusting the spine, but it is best to leave it to the professionals, e.g. chiropractors. They are trained to carefully manipulate the spine to promote healthy realignment. Sometimes there is no problem and a quick pop leads to some form of relief, but attempting to fix a problem can worsen the pain or further damage the injury.
When it comes to spinal structures, certain areas of the spine are more sensitive than others. The cervical vertebrae, in the neck, are much more delicate than the lumbar vertebrae in the lower back. When you tweak certain areas of the spine, you can risk a spinal cord injury, especially if you suffer from back or neck pain. If you are indeed plagued by neck or back pain, consider scheduling regular appointments with chiropractors and massage therapists. If you have no pain and are just a “crack” addict, dial back on the cracks or stop altogether because you don’t want to wear down your joints and increase your risk of arthritis.
There are many therapies that can be done to reduce back pain or relieve pressure around the spinal column. You don’t have to twist and pop because you can stretch, ice, heat, or get massages to prevent aches and pains. Try to stand up more and engage in regular exercise, which helps to lubricate joints. Make sure to properly warm up before heading straight into a workout, and do a few cool down exercises post workout to decrease your risk of injury.