Some of us have formed a habit of “cracking” or “popping” our own backs or necks. And some of us will actually get some temporarily relief from doing so. We often get asked the question:” Is cracking my back bad?”
The popping sound that one hears, or as we say in Chiropractic, an “audible release” is called cavitation. It is caused by the sudden release of gases (primarily nitrogen and carbon dioxide) from the joint fluids that surround each joint, when the joint space is suddenly increased.
The negative pressure created within the expanded joint forces the gases from the liquid, much like when a bottle of champagne is opened and it makes a popping sound.
Although “cracking your own back” produces the same sound as a chiropractic adjustment, or spinal manipulation as it is sometimes called, one cannot compare the two. A chiropractic adjustment is a highly specialized ability that requires five years to learn initially and a lifetime to perfect.
Chiropractors will try to find the joints that are most restricted and then, by applying pressure, increase its mobility and movement. All of this is done quickly and precisely, with just the minimum amount of force needed to make the correction, no more and no less than what is acquired.
One could give me the same tools as a dentist and I will probably be able to drill a hole in your molar, but that does not make me a dentist!
Unfortunately what tends to happen when joints become restricted in their movement is that adjacent joints tend to overcompensate and become hyper-mobile, i.e. they move too much. These are often the joints that one will “crack” or “pop” when trying to adjust you self.
Often, self-adjustments are not very specific and the entire back goes, making a lot of noise. If noise was your goal, you probably got that. If correction of the problem is what you hoped to do, you were probably disappointed.
Does “popping” your own back give you a relief, absolutely. The problem is only, that the relief is very temporarily, often only lasting a few hours to a few days maximum. It can become problematic if the cracking of someone’s own back becomes a habit and the need is felt to repeat this several times a day.
If this is the case, one can be sure that the wrong joints (the hypermobile ones) are cavitated. It requires skill, knowledge and practice to know and feel which joints need work doing to it. After all, you would not trust the baker for your meat, would you?