bh0i8744-copy-cropped Is cracking your back safe?

Cracking you back or other knuckles might feel good. After a long day, you may feel the need to bend or twist your body until you hear that relieving “pop” sound in your joints. But is the old wives’ tale about cracking our joints true? Could you be causing serious damage?

A question from a reader:

“I know people say cracking your knuckles is bad for you, but what about your back? It feels great to crack my back but is it just as bad?

Technically, cracking your back isn’t bad for you, but routinely cracking your back is a different story.

“Cracking or self-adjusting any joint within the body is bad for you if it is done in a habitual manner,” Dr. Christopher Anselmi, a Chiropractor at Hospital for Special Surgery’s Integrative Care Center in New York City told “These joints are composed of ligaments, tendons and other soft tissue structures which can wear out over time. Any undue placed on these joints can lead to premature breakdown.”

Although the “cracking” or “popping” noise you hear may sound alarming, it doesn’t mean anything is breaking. Our joints contain fluid and gases like nitrogen and carbon dioxide. When the liquid is put under pressure and force is applied to the joint, the gas exits and creates a “pop-like” sound.

If you’re cracking your back to alleviate tension, Anselmi suggests easy stretches.

“A simple way to stretch a tight back is to get into the shower and stretch your back out gently. After roughly 5 minutes [of showering], flex forward extend backwards, and bend from side to side. Make sure not to bounce or over-do it,” Anselmi said.

Cracking your back may not cause any major damage to your bones and joints, but if you constantly feel the need to do do, you should see a back specialist to determine if you have any underlying conditions.

“If your back pain persists a chiropractor is an excellent choice as a first line of defense for back pain,” Anselmi said. “When a professional manipulates the spine or any joint in the body it is performed in a controlled manner and followed by specific exercises or stretches. This approach ensures attention is given to both the joint and its surrounding tissues.”