Is cracking your back unhealthy?

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"Cracking" your back is not so bad at all if you are a young and healthy individual. The concern tends to be that there are some risks associated, such as fracture, sprain, strain, etc. These risks are very low when an adjustment ("cracking") is performed by a skilled professional (eg: doctor of chiropractic), but when performed by yourself, or by another unskilled person, the risks increase. Even when performed by the unskilled, the risks tend to be relatively non-severe for young and healthy individuals.

It should be noted that recent research has suggested that the "cracking" sound that comes from an adjustment of a joint has no therpeutic benefit in itself. It seems that it is rather the high velocity and low amplitude stretch of proprioceptive muculature that surrounds the joint that induced the therapeutic effect. Thus, simply "cracking" your own back by twisting yourself, etc. will not result in the same benefits of a proper adjustment by a skilled professional.

If you "crack" your back too much, then YES it is. Do not attempt to crack your back by yourself, have your doctor, or a trained professional do it. If you crack your back too much, it can lead to other health problems such has "hypermobility", which is the most common back problem associated with cracking your back. When you think of hypermobility, the easiest way to understand exactly what it is, is too think of a rubber band. When the rubber band is stretched over and over again, it loses it's "elasticity" to bounce back to it's normal shape. Which is exactly what happens with your spine when you over do it on the "Cracking" technique. Think of your back as a rubber band. It has elasticity in it to go back to it's normal shape. But the more and more you crack your back, it stretches the vertebrae, and the spine gradually loses it's elasticity to "bounce back" to it's normal form, just like a rubber band that is over stretched. This health problem is known as "HYPERMOBILITY". The younger the age you are that you start to crack your back, the more at risk you are to get back pains at an earlier age then normal, such as instead of getting back pains when your let's say, 55 years old, you'll start to get them at age 45 instead, because of the hypermobility you basically brought upon yourself by starting to crack your back at such a young age.

The above answer is interesting, but unfortunately is a common and incorrect interpretation of "back cracking". When a professional (eg: doctor of chiropractic) adjusts (cracks) your back, he/she does not stretch your ligaments more than you would during a normal day with normal activities (by turning to look over your shoulder, exercising, etc.). In fact, most of the stretch occurs on active structures like muscles that cross the joints, and this is what causes part of the therapeutic effect. If you "crack" your own back you may be stretching the ligaments a bit further, as you dont know the limits of your ligaments, but this will not cause them to become "loose" unless you hold that stretch for a very prolonged period. Further, the younger you are, the easier it is for those ligaments to become "tight" again if you do stretch them too far for too long (eg: When you sit with a poor posture you force your muscles in your back to support you. When your muscles tire out your ligaments must take over the job of supporting you, they slowly stretch and become damaged, but they will heal, especially if you are young).
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