back cracking

Can Bone Cracking Help with Back and Neck Pain?

Lots of us may naturally feel slight cracks in our joints. Many people feel the ‘cracking’ in their fingers or toes for example – but others might also experience it regularly in their neck or back. Actually, any joint can be ‘cracked’ and there are some cases of people cracking unexpected joints such as elbows or hips too.

Most people experience the bone cracking sensation themselves – as it’s something that happens when they move, or put pressure on the joint. This is totally normal, and most of the time this shouldn’t cause you pain or discomfort. In fact, for some joints and areas of the body, this cracking can be professionally done to help relieve pain and tension.

For your neck and back, the cracking of these joints can actually be controlled and performed by a chiropractor, in order to help relieve pain or tension. It’s a popular and well-known treatment, and you might be wondering how it works and what it can help with.

But first of all, it’s important to know what we mean when we talk about cracking. It’s not actually the breaking or splintering of bones (although the name would imply it).

What Causes Bone Cracking?

It’s important to know, the cracking word is used to describe the noise the sensation makes – it’s not actually referring to anything being broken or split. There are generally two main causes for this cracking  which we’ll talk about below.

Escaping gas

You might not know it, but there is actually fluids in your bone joints, which helps the bones move together without irritation. It keeps the movement of the joints smooth and (mostly) painless. This fluid inside your joints contains oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide. In certain joints of the body, such as facet joints, you’ll find a capsule around it that is filled with fluid and gas. It’s this gas that makes the popping or cracking noise when the joint is moved or stretched. The noise comes from the gas being quickly released in the form of tiny bubbles.

Movement

Whenever you move one of your joints, you’ll also be directly affecting the muscles and ligaments around it too. If (for example) a tendon near your joint is slightly out of place, it might make a cracking (or snapping) sounds when it moves back into place. This sound can also occur when the ligaments are snapped back into place.

How Does Bone Cracking in your Neck and Back Help?

The practice of neck cracking is often something performed by chiropractors, and it’s recommended that you only have a professional work on your neck and back – especially as they’re such sensitive areas. The process of bone cracking is formally referred to as cervical spine manipulation – and whilst you should attempt to correct anything yourself – going to a professional can help ease any pain or discomfort.

Here are some signs that you may need to visit a professional:

  • You notice unusual or any swelling in your neck,
  • You have chronic pain that doesn’t go away and doesn’t improve,
  • You notice your joints becoming stiff or painful,
  • The pain is stopping you from working or enjoying normal life.

Cracking the neck and back can have wonderful life-changing results for many patients, as it helps with pain relief and tension relief for lots of people. There are (of course) risks with this kind of procedure, but it’s for that reason that you should always check the credentials of your chiropractor before having any treatments. Ensuring that they’re professional, certified and licensed is the best

Neck and back manipulation, when done correctly, can help with the following things:

  • Correct the positioning of the spine,
  • Relieve pain in the spine area,
  • Relieve aching in the back / spine,
  • Relieve pain in the neck area,
  • Relieve aching in the neck and shoulders.

Your chiropractor will discuss with you the approach they will be taking, and how they expect to see improvements and what the outcome will hopefully be. Many patients who have back or neck cracking done with a chiropractor also say they noticed other symptoms improving too, such as:

  • Less migraine pain,
  • Less pressure headaches,
  • Less lower back pain,
  • Reduced hip pain.

Ensuring the Results Stick Around

It is recommended after treatment, that you keep up a healthy lifestyle and make positive changes to your routine which won’t damage your joints, spine or neck and further. A common problem, is that when people feel the pain ease off after a session – they carry on doing harmful habits that then takes them back to the same painful situation again. It’s important that you ensure you’re nurturing the area, rather than making it worse.

A few bad habits to look out for are:

  • Keeping a bad mattress, or falling asleep on furniture that isn’t your bed,
  • Not stretching daily,
  • Carrying heavy shoulder bags or backpacks,
  • Carrying heavy shopping bags at the supermarket,
  • Being too active with children (picking them up, swinging them around, etc).

If you can wipe out any bad habits, and cultivate good habits, you should see lasting results from your bone cracking treatment. Whilst the bone cracking treatments aren’t guaranteed to work for everyone, many people swear by their effectiveness, especially in helping them manage and cope with joint pain.

David Phillips

David Phillips BSc (Hons) Chiropractic, DC, LRCC Chiropractor. vid has been qualified since 2002 and has been in continuous private practice since then in London. He is a member of the British Chiropractic Association, registered with the General Chiropractic Council, is a Licentiate of the Royal College of Chiropractors and is widely recognised by health insurance companies.
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