Sometimes after sitting down for too long, getting up and stretching may cause a cracking or popping sound in your neck, back or in another part of your body. You may be wondering what causes this sensation and sound to be produced, and whether it’s harmless or something to be worried about.


Despite the sound, known as the term crepitus, there is nothing in your body that is actually cracking or breaking to produce it. Although you are likely to experience this sensation every now and then from stretching, it is a lot more common when undergoing spinal manipulation treatments from a chiropractor or other joint and spine specialists.


Keep on reading to find out more about what causes the crack or pop sound and things to be careful about when trying to crack your own back.


What Causes The Iconic Crack

In people with no relevant conditions, crepitus is caused by pressure being exerted onto a joint. The force causes the joint capsule to stretch and rapidly releases gas that is in the synovial fluid, which form bubbles that pop and cause the sound. This explains why you can’t crack the same knuckle repeatedly, as the gas has to return to the synovial fluid first.


Crepitus can also occur when joints grind against each other due to conditions like osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. As the cartilage around the joints deteriorate, there is nothing to stop the joints from coming into contact. This can also occur if you are suffering from a bone fracture, as the two fractured surfaces of the broken bone can grind against each other.


Is It Dangerous To Crack Your Back?

Back adjustments are painless when done correctly, so it is a bad sign if you are experiencing pain when receiving adjustments or doing it yourself. Ensure that your chiropractor is fully qualified before starting treatment, or fully understanding how to stretch properly to avoid unnecessary injuries.


Here are a few potential risks of incorrect spinal manipulation:


  • Pinched nerves can be the result of your spine being adjusted too quickly or forcefully. This can result in short or long term pain, with long term pain needing to be diagnosed and treated by a professional.


  • Excessive force when cracking your back can strain or tear muscles, limiting your range of motion and cause pain around the area that was adjusted.


  • Cracking your back with too much force or too frequently may injure your blood vessels. This can be especially dangerous as many of the blood vessels along the spine are important, as the connect to your brain. Blood clots can result due to internal bleeding, which can cause strokes along with other severe brain injuries.


Whether you are getting your back cracked by a professional or are doing it yourself by stretching, knowledge is key to avoid injury. Spinal manipulations can provide relief and improve your quality of life when done correctly, but when done wrong it can cause more problems for you.

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