Why Does Cracking Your Back Feel Good?
At one point or another you've probably twisted in your chair and heard the sound and sensation of a pop somewhere in your body. It surprises you, but does not hurt. Your muscles relax and you can breath more deeply. What just happened and why does it feel good?
Most people would describe this as "cracking your back" but let's be clear: your bones are not cracking! Don't worry, you didn't break anything (probably). In medical lingo, this sound is called a cavitation and is often heard as the result of a chiropractic adjustment. However, an audible cavitation is not necessary for a successful adjustment.
What's Causing the Sound?
First, we need to understand a bit about what the joint looks like and how it works. The joint capsule between bones contains lubricating fluid. When it is stretched, the nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxide present in the fluid quickly form bubbles. This creates an audible popping sound and releases pressure within the joint. We call this sound the cavitation. For those of you who are engineers, you will recognize this term and the same principles apply.
A cavitation sound is not necessary to successfully mobilize a joint, but it is often present as the result of a mobilization. If you do not hear the "pop" or "crack" when your chiropractor adjusts you, that's okay! It does not necessarily happen every time and the adjustment is still successful.
Why Does Cracking Your Back Feel So Good?
There are a few reasons on why you get relief. First, chiropractic adjustments triggers the release of endorphins. Endorphins are your body's natural pain killers. These chemicals make you feel good and block/reduce the sensation of pain. It's like taking medication without any chemical side effects.
The second reason is that it stimulates nutrient uptake in the joint. Most of your body parts get their nutritional supply through the blood. The joint and cartilage within a joint have no blood supply and rely on synovial fluid within the joint. The only way to increase flow of nutrient uptake in the joint is through increased movement. Chiropractic adjustments help supply this necessary movement to specific joints, allowing nutrients to be absorbed by the joint fluid.
The third reason is because optimal joint mobility and range of motion improves function. Your body needs to move well for you to function well! Your joints are designed to move and if a joint is fixated or limited in range of motion, other joints have to compensate for that lack of motion. This can lead to abnormal function within surrounding joints, as well as increasing the probability of degeneration or arthritis over time.
Is It Safe to Crack My Own Back?
This is generally something you should leave to the professionals. If your back cracks just from natural movements such as stretching or simple movements such as sitting down or getting up from laying down, you aren’t causing any harm. Your joints will release this pressure naturally and you don’t need to worry.
Even cracking your knuckles is not going to generally cause any harm, and no it won’t cause arthritis! Even if it annoys your family members, you can rest easy knowing you aren’t doing any damage. The exception is unless you already have arthritis or some other degenerative or inflammatory joint condition.
However, you should definitely never force trying to crack your back or especially your neck. If it does not occur with natural movements, do not attempt to force it!
Chiropractors spend years learning the anatomy and joint movement of the body, and are specifically trained to adjustment the joints of the spine. Adjusting the joints purposely requires a delicate amount of force in the proper direction, and performing this without training can cause serious injury, such as muscle strain, ligament sprain, or even disc herniations. Leave it to us, that’s what we’re here for!