One of the most common questions I get on a daily basis in practice ‘is it safe to crack my own spine?’.
We have the growing phenomenon of “text neck,” that leaves most of us are feeling stiffer than ever in our neck and shoulder regions, so it makes sense that a good self crack or two would bring relief, right? Or perhaps a bear hug from a friend to get to that place in the back you just cannot reach?
‘POP POP POP’
First of all what is the noise?
Joints contain oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide gasses as well as fluid that lubricates the area where two bones meet. When you put liquid under pressure (which happens when you put pressure on a joint), the tiny gas bubbles in the joint are released, creating that ‘popping sound’.
It is similar to opening a jar for the first time. The pressure in the jar is released when you open it, and the gas bubbles forcefully rise to the top with a pop!
When the gas bubbles are released, the fluid within the joints lubricates the joint surfaces restoring movement and nerve function. But best of all, you feel relief.
So If You Feel Better, What’s the Problem?
Each time you manipulate your own joints, you are causing your ligaments to stretch like a rubber band. When you stretch a rubber band too many times, it loses its shape and can become unstable and could even snap.
Your ligaments function in the same way. When you continually stretch them by cracking your own neck or back, they can no longer provide the structure and stability that the joints in your neck or back need to maintain proper alignment.
This can lead to a whole list of problems including pinched nerves, misaligned vertebra, stiffness and pain.
In addition, when you crack your own neck or back, the joints you’re actually “cracking” are supported by the ligaments that are already stretched too thin, not the areas of the spine that are locked up and causing you pain or stiffness.
So, you are never actually really fixing the problem – just releasing the gasses, stretching ligaments and lubricating joints that are already too stretched out making the current subluxation worse and of course creating new ones. In addition, your perceived need for “the pop” becomes greater and greater with each fix because the true problem is worsening. It is a viscious cycle you don’t want to find yourself in, although many people do.
But My Neck Cracks By Itself!
We all experience our joints cracking sometimes. If we’re sitting too long and stand up and stretch, it’s not unusual for built-up pressure in the spine to release a bit, causing that familiar popping. Unforced cracking that occurs from natural and gentle movements isn’t harmful. So if your neck is a bit stiff, you gently tilt your head from side to side, and your neck cracks? You can rest easy knowing that you haven’t done any damage.
So what is the solution?
1. Resist the urge to self crack. I know this may be hard but trust me-worth it.
2. Leave it to a professional. Like hairdressing or dentistry some things are better left to the professional. At Chirobalance our chiropractors are skilled at using the right amount of specifity and force needed to get the body working at its best again.