Can’t I Crack My Own Back?

can I crack my own back

Does Your Back Hurt? Resist the Urge to Crack it Yourself.


It’s important to have chiropractic adjustments done by a professional chiropractor to avoid any potential injury. A chiropractor is an expert at getting to the source and performing adjustments to heal your discomfort through careful therapy.  But even chiropractors can’t do adjustments on themselves.

What Does a Chiropractor Do?

Chiropractors specialize in diagnosing which bones are stuck in the wrong place and know how to gently adjust them back into position. Far from simply cracking a back, Chiropractic care involves thorough exams to diagnose the issue and determine the right course of treatment. A successful treatment will target the mobility issues, pain and stiffness that can interfere with your daily life.

The common belief seems to be that once you go to a Chiropractor, you’ll have to keep going back. In fact, it’s all about maintenance. The best time to see a Chiropractor is before back pain affects your life.

When you book an appointment with Mind Body Spine, Dr. Louie will perform a complete wellness exam that includes the following:

  • Looking at your medical history
  • Observing your posture
  • Assessing your spinal alignment
  • Measuring any noticeable deviation from proper posture
  • Performing flexibility and mobility/range of motion tests

What Happens When I Crack My Back?

The relief you feel seconds after cracking your back is caused by a flood of natural endorphins. It feels great, but it doesn’t mean the problem is solved. The rush of endorphins only lasts for 15-20 minutes in the bloodstream and has the same effect as taking a painkiller. They mask the pain, but don’t fix the underlying issue.

That temporary relief might mean that you start cracking your back even more, in hopes of getting that same feel-good sensation and you could be doing more harm than good. Adjusting your back incorrectly or too often can exacerbate or cause pain, muscle strain, or injury. It can also lead to hypermobility, which can cause the overstretching of the muscles of your back, which can lead to injury.

What is the Back Made of?

cracking your own back - vertebrae sections

In order to understand what’s happening when you hear your back or neck crack, it’s important to know the structure of your back. The spine runs down the centre of your body and it protects your spinal cord. Meanwhile, the vertebrae along your spine help to support your body weight and healthy posture. The average human is actually born with 33 vertebrae, but compression on the lower vertebrae reduces this number to about 24 vertebrae by the time you’ve reached mid-adulthood. This means that as you age, it becomes even more important to support and maintain the health of your back and spine.

Your vertebrae are divided into sections:

  • Your cervical spine (neck bones)
  • Your thoracic spine (mid back)
  • Your lumbar spine (lower back)
  • Your sacrum (joined with your pelvis)
  • Your coccyx (tailbone)

Each of these vertebrae in each of the five sections connect with ligaments, muscles and tendons and are connected by soft disks that add cushioning. These discs protect your vertebrae, like the insoles of your shoes cushion and protect your foot bones. These shock-absorbing discs in your vertebrae let you enjoy an active lifestyle, whether you’re just going for a walk, or doing something more physically demanding, like surfing.

What Causes a Back to Crack?

Medical experts commonly believe that the cracking or popping sound that happens when you twist your back is caused by gas bubbles bursting. These gas bubbles are believed to come from synovial fluid, which is a special fluid inside your joints. Synovial fluid essentially feeds nutrients to the cartilage in your joints to let you move your body smoothly with no pain or tension. The gas is made up of carbon dioxide, nitrogen and oxygen and can actually be seen on MRI’s and X-rays before being quickly reabsorbed into the body.

Another school of thought is that the cracking sound is caused by a gas-filled space forming in the joints. The theory is essentially the same, except that the bubbles are being created when you twist or manipulate your back.  Either way, the cracking and popping sounds seem to be nature’s way of telling you not to put too much pressure on your joints.

With a really good chiropractic adjustment, you may not hear any cracking or popping sounds at all. If you don’t hear any cracking or popping, it’s because the specific stretches are gently adjusting the problem area, without any need for force or twisting. This is especially important if you’re pregnant or have repetitive strain injuries.

You can also try stretches to stop back pain before it starts. Dr. Louie has a great video library to guide you through relieving lower back and leg pain, relieving stiffness and tightness in your mid back and more.

If your problem is more severe and you’re experiencing recurrent back or neck pain caused by herniated discs, arthritis, or other ailments, Spinal Decompression Therapy may be a good option for your treatment. Spinal decompression therapy is designed to take pressure off of your nerves by gently creating space between the discs in the spine, resulting in a marked improvement in pain and mobility.

If you’re uncomfortable and are finding yourself cracking your back for relief, book an appointment with Dr. Louie at Mind Body Spine in Victoria, BC. Using a “total body chiropractic” method of care, Dr. Louie will diagnose and provide safe, effective treatment for your pain and stiffness. She’ll also work with you to reach your healthcare goals with exercise, nutrition counselling and support for a truly well-rounded treatment plan.