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No, Cracking Your Back Is Not a Substitute For The Chiropractor

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No, Cracking Your Back Is Not a Substitute For The Chiropractor

Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

Back pain doesn’t go away overnight. Chiropractors often recommend patients come back for several weeks if not longer to get the most out of their treatments. And it makes sense—if you’re suffering from back pain, it’s probably because your spinal cord is out of alignment. It takes more than just one session to retrain your vertebrae to sit back in the correct position.

While ongoing chiropractic care is the best way to treat back aches and pains, it can get expensive. If you have a crazy schedule or your insurance doesn’t cover chiropractic sessions, it’s natural to look for other options. But even though the positions chiropractors put you in may look easy enough to do on your own or with the help of a roommate, it can be extremely dangerous.

Before we talk about why cracking your own back and other joints are bad for your body, let’s talk about the different types of joints in your body. There are around 360 joints in your body, all holding the bones together and allowing movement at the point of connection.

  • Fibrous joints. These are the only joints in the body that are static (don’t move). Made from collagen, their main purpose is to unite two immovable joints together.
  • Cartilaginous joints. These joints hold two bones together with cartilage. They allow limited movement but are mainly to hold bones in place. Your spine is held together with cartilaginous joints.
  • Synovial joints. These joints are the most commonly known joints since they allow movement between important parts of your body. These joints are located in highly movable areas like your shoulders, elbows, toes, and knees. The synovial fluid in between these joints keeps everything lubricated and moving smoothly.

Why People Crack Their Own Joints

Many people feel the urge to crack their back and other joints for a lot of different reasons. If they’re experiencing stiffness and tightness in areas of their body, cracking those joints can often provide immediate relief. But that relief is temporary. Once that stiffness comes back they automatically think cracking that joint again will help. It quickly becomes a habit that does nothing to actually fix the root cause of the pain.

What’s The Cracking Sound?

The cracking or popping sound you hear whenever you crack a joint isn’t the sound of something breaking inside your body. The sound is just the release of carbon dioxide gas that builds up in your joints. The gas isn’t dangerous, but it can be startling for people and can be a reason why they don’t want to go to a chiropractor.

Cracking Your Back vs. Chiropractic Adjustments

Cracking your own back may feel good right afterward (and that popping sound is surprisingly satisfying to hear) but it may take a serious toll on your body over time. If done incorrectly, you risk pulling a muscle or straining your tendons.

Your body’s neck and back are full of delicate structures that can easily be strained or popped out of alignment. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you can easily do more harm than good by cracking it yourself. Chiropractors have extensive training in anatomy and how to administer manual adjustments correctly. Going to a chiropractor for something you can seemingly do yourself may seem like an expensive hassle, but it’s worth it. Knowing the underlying musculoskeletal structure ensures you’re targeting the actual cause of the pain and stiffness—and not actually making the problem worse.

Potential Dangers of Cracking Your Own Back

  • Premature ligament wear
  • Excessive ligament stretching
  • Joint instability
  • Herniated or slipped discs
  • Compromising head and neck blood supply

Even though the jury is still out on whether excessively cracking your back and other joints lead to arthritis, there are still many other reasons to leave back cracking to the professionals.

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, cracking your back, knuckles, and neck every once in a while by yourself isn’t going to cause serious damage to your body. But if you have a bad habit of doing it all the time—and doing it incorrectly—you can easily hurt yourself. You may feel young right now and not have serious joint pain, but your body is always aging. Anything you can do to keep your body from prematurely wearing down will keep you feeling healthy and strong for longer.

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