Back tension is common in people who sit or stand for several consecutive hours. One way to deal with this tension is to crack or pop your back. Done correctly, cracking your back can be helpful in relieving tension, decreasing pain, easing joint inflammation, and improving your range of motion.
What Does the Cracking Sound Mean?
Ever wondered why you hear cracking when you pop your back? Many people are concerned about the noise and assume that it is unhealthy. The noise is actually gas being released from between your joints. If you pop your back correctly, it is not unhealthy or dangerous.
Does Popping Your Back Cause Arthritis?
Another common misconception is that back cracking causes arthritis. This is a myth. While the origin of this myth is unclear, research has shown that there is no direct link to cracking your knuckles or other body parts and an increase in the development of arthritis. Physical therapists, pain specialists and chiropractors can analyze your back pain and assist you in cracking your back.
How to Crack Your Back
While it may be best for a licensed professional to crack your back, you may prefer to crack your own back. The following are ways to pop your back at home. For any of these movements, even if you don’t hear a crack it doesn’t mean that it didn’t work.
- Sit in a chair with a medium-height backrest. Your shoulder blades should be able to fit over the top of it. With a towel over the back rest to provide extra padding, put your hands behind your head. Slowly lower your head towards the floor. You can adjust your position in the chair if you feel tension in a different area of your back.
- While either standing up or sitting without a backrest, put your hands together behind your back. Clench one hand into a fist and wrap your other hand around it. Push up at an angle and allow your back to bend as you push.
- Foam roller: Start by sitting on the floor with a foam roller positioned behind you. With bent knees, slowly lean back so that the tense section of your back is resting on the foam roller. Keeping your hands behind your head, slowly lower your head. This should crack your upper back.
- Exercise ball: Start this exercise by sitting on an exercise ball. Walk your feet out until the tense portion of your back is on top of the ball. Staying on top of the ball, move your body back and forth. You can use your hands to push your head up or lower it closer to the floor.
- While sitting on the floor keep your left leg straight in front of you while you cross your right leg so that your right foot is near your left hip. Press your left elbow to the outside of your right knee and look directly behind you. Hold for several seconds. Repeat several times on each side.
- Child’s pose: This is a common yoga pose that can help relieve spinal tension. Sit on the floor with your legs underneath you. Then, take a breath in and slowly extend your arms and hands in front of you, resting them on the floor. You can also bring your arms behind you, resting next to your legs. Breathe deeply and hold the stretch for as long as is comfortable.
- Laying stretch: For this exercise, start by lying on your back. Bring both knees up to your stomach as you lift your head upward. Hold this position for 30 seconds and repeat several times.
- Extend your spine using your hands. To do so, gently lean backwards extending your spine. Then, if your flexibility allows, place your hands on various parts of your back, exerting gentle pressure. This is most effective if you are flexible in your arms and upper back.
- Cat/Cow: This is a combination of two yoga poses that can help elongate and stretch your spine. The cat pose resembles that of an angry cat. Begin on all fours with your knees shoulder width apart. Your knees should be under your hips and your wrists should be under your shoulders. Start in a neutral position and then take a breath in and as you exhale, round your spine up towards the sky and gently drop your chin towards your chest. You should resemble an angry cat with an arched and rounded back. Then, as you inhale again, slowly release your spine and let your stomach relax towards the floor. At the same time, raise your head and tailbone towards the sky. This is the cow portion of the exercise. Complete 5 to 10 repetitions.
Tools to Help
As described above, you can use simple household items such as a chair to assist you or purchase items such as a foam roller. There are some custom design products available for purchase that may help as well. There are back stretchers, items that hang from a door frame and much more. We highly recommend that you seek medical advice before investing in any product to make sure that it is appropriate for you and will provide relief instead of exacerbating an existing condition.
While popping your back can seem like an easy solution, there can have negative effects. Here are some things you need to consider before you pop your back at home.
- Be gentle and go slow. None of these exercises—or any other back-cracking exercise for that matter—should be performed rapidly or carelessly. Each motion should be methodical. While you attempt to crack your back, even your breathing should be slow and rhythmic. One reckless movement or overextension could cause significant damage to your back.
- Understand your pain. if you are feeling significant, consistent back pain, popping your back may not be the best solution. Self-prescribed back-cracking when you don’t know the cause of the pain can be dangerous and cause even more damage. Give us a call or visit our office so we can help you determine the problem and find the right solution.
- Routine cracking can cause damage. While cracking your back occasionally to relieve tension can be beneficial, over-cracking can result in more damage. Joint pain and swelling are two problems that often arise as a result of over-cracking. If you habitually crack your spine, you put additional pressure on your joints, ligaments and tendons potentially causing premature wear and tear.
- Stop if you feel more pain. If you are performing any back-cracking exercise and feel a jolt of pain—or any pain that is different than what you were feeling—stop immediately. Continuing could cause harm to your back.
When Not To Crack Your Own Back
If you find yourself cracking your own spine multiple times a day due to discomfort, it is time to contact a professional. It may take a medical professional’s expertise to get to the root of the problem that is causing your back pain.
If you have a history of hypermobility, contact a medical professional. While cracking your back may help you feel better, it can actually exacerbate hypermobile joints. If you are experiencing pain, do not try self treatment at home as you risk making your symptoms or condition worse.
If you are uncomfortable performing these exercises on your own or are unsure of the cause, schedule an appointment with us. Even if you can pop your own back, let us help you pinpoint the cause of your discomfort and implement a treatment plan to eliminate your pain. Call us at 480-986-7246 or schedule an appointment on our website. We want to help you live your best, most pain free life.