It is common to see most people twisting or turning their torso while sitting on a chair, standing or even while walking. This twisting or turning is nothing but back cracking. Apparently, this manipulative exercise offers some degree of relief from stiffness in the upper or lower back region. While most people crack their back on their own, some prefer seeking help from a chiropractor for the same. While such spinal manipulations offer some relief, they may also raise questions on long-term ill effects on health.
Is Back Cracking Bad for You?
Back cracking may not be bad for you, if you are doing it while stretching normally and not forming it into a habit. Going beyond your normal range of motion to do the same thing, however, may have uncertain long-term ill effects on your health. Also, if you sense pain before or after cracking your back, then this may mean that your joints are getting damaged.
Note that, if you feel the need of cracking your back all the time to relieve pain or stiffness, then see a trained and licensed chiropractor or an osteopathic physician. It may be that, this activity is only worsening your back problem.
What's the Cracking Sound?
When you crack your back, it does not mean that you are cracking any bones. The cracking refers to a popping sound. Between each joint in the spine, there exists a fluid. When you crack your back, the fluid releases gas and this produces the popping or the cracking sound. The same goes with cracking your knuckles or neck.
Is Louder the Better?
Most people relate a louder popping sound to a higher degree of relaxation. This, however, is not seconded by experts. Back cracking, with or without an audible sound, works to produce relaxation. This fact is important to understand, because repeatedly cracking your back until you hear a pop, may cause severe damage to your muscles or tissues.
How to Safely Crack your Back
If you do not have a chronic back problem and are otherwise healthy, then you may follow these safety guidelines to crack your back.
While sitting straight on a chair, hold the right side of it with your left hand and twist your torso to the right. Then, hold the left side of the chair with your right hand and twist to the left.
Arching the back
While sitting or standing, place your hands at the back of your head.
Interlock your fingers, slowly push your head backwards and try to bulge out your stomach by arching your spine. Try gazing at the ceiling.
Maintain this position for a few seconds, and then bend forward.
Be in a kneeling position on a yoga mat or a towel.
Stretch out your arms sideways, making a "T".
Gently twist to the right, and try to touch your left foot with your right hand, and vice versa.
Even if you are not able to make a contact between your hands and feet, the exercise will still work to crack your back.
Back crack with a friend
Cross your arms, touching your right shoulder with your left hand, and left shoulder with your right hand.
Ask your friend to hug you from behind while grabbing your elbows.
Have him pick you up while hugging you and ask him to push your back with his chest. You should then hear a cracking sound.
Note: Do not judge the effectiveness of any of these exercises by the presence or loudness of a popping or cracking sound.
Back cracking, when compared to neck cracking may be less riskier. This is because, doctors associate neck cracking to an increased risk of stroke, even when done by a chiropractor. Although the overall risk is small, it is not too small to be ignored. So, if your back is tight or stiff, then you may crack it once in a while. But it is better to avoid such manipulations with your neck. Take care!
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.