How Safe is Cracking Your Own Neck or Back?

If you crack your own back or neck, you’re not alone.  Studies show that many of us commonly crack our knuckles, necks and even our toes on a regular basis. But is it safe? 

Cracking Your Own Back and Neck is Risky Business

If cracking your neck or back feels better, how can it be so bad for you?

Let’s take a minute to list the parts of the body that are contained in the neck area:

  • blood vessels
  • spinal cord
  • bones
  • joints
  • muscles
  • arteries
  • nerves
  • ligaments

With all of those tiny, yet essential body parts involved, forcefully moving the neck beyond its normal limits, can cause a great deal of damage.

Do you have a disc bulge?  Does your neck have any anatomical malformations?  Without a proper exam, you have no way of knowing.

What Makes the Cracking or Popping Sound?

Joints contain oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide gasses as well as fluids that lubricate 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 a popping sound.

It’s similar to opening a can of soda.  The pressure in the can 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’re never really fixing the problem – just releasing the gasses, stretching ligaments and lubricating joints that are already too stretched out.

What’s the alternative?

A good chiropractor will take the time to do a through examination and X-rays to determine which areas of the spine are locked up (hypo-mobile) and which areas are too stretched out (hyper-mobile).

Conservative chiropractic care for neck pain will then follow with a report of findings where the chiropractor will explain the results of the exam and suggest a treatment plan to restore normal motion to your joints.

A spine that is functioning normally has the ability to heal and maintain proper function without relying on constant manipulation. 

Cracking your own joints may feel good temporarily, but if it creates long-term structural problems in your back and neck, it’s not worth the risk.

Further Questions?

If you have further questions, we recommend speaking to a chiropractor. Use Whitecoat to easily find an appropriate healthcare provider near you.

Posted by Dr Jake Bright in Provider Blogs
30 Aug 2016

Posted by
Dr Jake Bright

30 Aug 2016
Provider Blogs

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