When a chiropractor scans for what areas to adjust – where to administer the popping release that is associated with some of the traditional techniques – it’s only the joints that are the most jammed up that we’re looking for. Cracking your own spine will always only release the joints that are already the loosest and least jammed up (read this previous post for more on this).
The delivery of a spinal adjustment the way chiropractors are trained to do it, should be very quick and very specific. It’s the speed of the adjustment maneuver that avoids imposing any lengthening stress anywhere. It’s also done with short levers which means movement happens over a very small area of the body at a time – spanning one to two joints. This makes it extremely specific, in a way that we cannot be with ourselves. With such specificity, a skilled chiropractic treatment introduces movement over a nanosecond of time, only where it’s needed and nowhere else. When the jammed up joints are properly released, then those hyper-mobile joints – the ones that are cracking all the time – should not feel the need to do so much of the work anymore. The work load becomes more evenly distributed and sensations of tightness will ease.
Once the self administered cracking has become a daily habit – a dependency, you run the real risk of destroying the tone of your ligaments which are some of the main stabilizing elements that connect the bones of your spine to each other. If you imagine stripping away all of your muscles, you would see that each bone connects to the other by these non-elastic strands that we call “ligaments”. They are made of material that does not have a lot of give and that is because they are there to stabilize the joint – to protect it from too much movement. Repeated forceful cracking will cause these ligaments to stretch out and become loose and un-supportive.
Once we’ve weakened the ligaments – our most stabilizing structures – then the muscles of the spine have to work so much harder than they are designed to on a day to day basis, simply to accomplish being upright against gravity. People who are constantly cracking their own spines are damaging their support structure and setting themselves up for serious injury down the road.
All of these complications from what seems like a fun and relieving thing to do are just not worth it in the long run. Not to mention that any kind of repeated stimulation to anywhere in the body will cause friction which can only result in inflammation – just like a blister that forms from the rubbing of a badly fitting shoe. The inflammation may not be felt as pain right away but it will provide the initial spark to what may turn into a situation like a pile of simmering coals that ignites decades later, once we’ve hit our limit for stress in that area.
The information provided in this blog is in no way intended to and should not be used to substitute for individualized medical advice.
Please consult a health care provider for the proper treatment of your pain.
“Every Body's Guide to Everyday Pain,” “Return to Health,” “Return to Health Press,” and accompanying logos and domain names are trademarks of Return to Health, P.S. and Dr. Ya-Ling J. Liou.
- Joint Cracking: The Good, Bad and the Ugly
- Stop Feeding the Fire of Your Everyday Pain – Step #3: