If you’re suffering from back pain, cracking your back could reduce your discomfort. But it’s important to know how to pop your back safely.
Do you suffer from low-grade back pain or stiffness? If so, you may want to crack your back to stretch tight muscles, realign the spine, and stop the ache.
As with any exercise, check with your doctor or a physical therapist first before you crack your back at home. Although the popping sound may be jarring, when done safely, cracking your back brings quick relief and allows you to continue to work out without pain. But first it’s important to know how to pop your lower or upper back properly. Here are some guidelines to follow.
How to Crack Your Back Properly
When you crack your back, you may not actually hear a cracking or popping sound. Rather, the goal is to manipulate and stretch the spine back into alignment to lessen pain. If you do hear a cracking sound, it’s because air pockets in the synovial fluid in the spinal joints release the telltale cracking or popping noise due to a sudden or sharp movement.
Instead of a popping sound, you’ll probably feel an intense stretch in the lower or upper back muscles. Popping your back at home can be a quick remedy for occasional back pain. However, more serious spinal conditions such as spinal stenosis, compression fractures, and disc degeneration could be made worse by cracking your back, so it’s vital to get a diagnosis before trying to crack your back at home.
Back Stretches to Try
It’s also a good idea to have a physical therapist teach you some stretching exercises for your back before trying them on your own. These four exercises can help crack your back and may be done safely at home.
Back of Chair Stretch. For this upper and middle back stretch, you’ll need a chair with a strong back that allows your shoulder blades to fit over the top. Sit in the chair and lace your fingers behind your head. (You can put a towel over the chair back for extra comfort.) Slowly lean back until you hear your back crack or feel a stretch. Slide your body up or down to find the right area where the pain and stiffness are.
Standing Spinal Rotation. In a standing position, extend your arms in front of you. Slowly turn your body to the right while keeping your hips and feet facing forward. Return to the starting position, and then turn to the left. After a few turns, you should hear a crack or feel a loosening in the lower back.
Knee to Chest Stretch. Lying on a floor mat, stretch your legs out flat and keep your arms at your sides. Bend your left knee and place your hands on either side of the left thigh. Then gently pull your knee toward your chest and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the right side.
Sitting Rotation. This exercise can either stretch or pop the back. Sit on a floor mat with your legs straight out in front of you. Bend your left leg and cross it over the right. Slowly twist your upper body toward the bent left leg. You can place your left hand behind your body for extra support. Then twist your body further by putting your right arm on the outer side of the bent left thigh. As you look over your left shoulder, hold the stretch for 30 seconds and then gradually return to the starting stance. Repeat on the other side.
With these stretches, it’s important to gradually increase the resistance. When you feel more comfortable, you can slowly add in more exercises. If you experience intense pain at any point, stop. And if you’re suffering from a severe back ache or swelling, make an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon. Prolonged spinal pain is likely a sign of a more serious underlying condition that must be diagnosed and treated by a specialist.
Visit the Back Specialists
At New York Bone & Joint Specialists, our physicians and physical therapists are experts in spinal orthopedics. We’ll diagnose what’s causing your back pain and recommend therapies and exercises to heal your spine. Contact us for an appointment.