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Is cracking my back and neck okay?



This is in case you just want the answer and don’t care about why!!! BUT if you want to know why, then read the rest of this blog to better understand why people crack their neck and back, why if it is not good, then how come it feels good when they crack their back and finally why is not every cracking the same!!!



People in general find the urge to crack their neck and back as a result of tension build up. This can happen due to multiple reasons which are mostly as a result of a sedentary life style in this society. With long hours of sitting behind a computer and desk comes forward neck, slouched midback and exhausted lower back. The Brain which is in charge of EVERYTHING, every single second of our life, provides the BEST physiologic solution at every given moment given what we throw at it. When it comes to our musculoskeletal system (muscles and bones) is sometimes has to behave as if  you are carrying a large stack of bricks, walking from point A to B while every once in a while, someone comes nudging at you, asks you questions, and pulls you in different directions. Aghhh, that sure does not sound like fun, does it? The created tension in the spine specifically, interferes with the intricate and super important function of the spine as the highway of nerve pathways and life sustaining functions. Automatically, we feel restless and in need of moving around. The neck and back cracking is the sad attempt to bring some comfort to the uncomfortable state.


Not all cracking is the same!!!! The cracking noise is actually the release of gasses within the joint. Not every adjustment (yes that is what we Chiropractors call it) and cracking makes the noise though. Next time you try to crack your knuckle and you dont hear something, you know that you ‘cracked’ the knuckle but no gas was released. When you crack your neck or back, you are simply after anything that will release the tension. One of the functions of the muscles surrounding your spine is to protect the actual spine. Have you noticed how at the beginning it was so hard to ‘crack’ your neck and back but with repetition it became easier and easier to the point that now, you may just move your neck or back and it cracks!!!!! If those muscles get a continuous message to protect, but learn there was nothing to protect it against, they get conditioned into thinking that they dont need to be alarmed. This back fires when they are to actually protect your spine but dont. The rate and extent of injury therefore goes up. This is not mean that the more you get adjusted, the more unstable the same muscles get; this is because when you  get adjusted, function is brought to the fixated joint but when you crack your neck or back, you are moving whatever that is loose to move.


To answer this question I need to share with you a little bit of physiology but I promise it is interesting and a fun tidbit!!! Every time there is an action, physical or emotional, taking place, the Brain gets alerted to try to figure out what to do next. When it comes to a joint movement-and yes cracking your neck and back, getting your neck and back adjusted or even spraining a joint fall under similar category-the Brain gets alerted. Since its main function is to make life as pleasant as possible (given what you throw at it) and to make you live a long life, the movement within the joints of your neck or back for that matter -when beyond the normal range of motion- signals the Brain and stimulates its fight or flight mode. It gets in the instinctual mode of trying to get you out of the danger because your joints are not signaling a normal range of motion. The receptors in the joint signal the Brain to release tranquilizing hormones so in case this ‘out of normal range of movement’ has to do with you having injured yourself and now there is a ‘lion’ chasing after you;  you can’t afford slowing down because of pain. The tranquilizers will let you continue to ‘escape the lion’ so you can survive the danger.

The immediate feeling after your crack your neck or back is great but the problem comes with you having induced excess movement in a joint that did not even have a problem of being fixated to begin with. You see, not every tense muscle causes restricted range of motion right away and a random ‘cracking’ of whatever moves is not the right way of correcting a problem. I am a Chiropractor and adjust many patients every single week BUT I have my own Chiropractor that I go see because in order to adjust myself I will be using the muscles that need to be relaxing when getting adjusted. I can ‘crack’ my neck and back but that not only does not solve a problem but causes a much bigger problem.


The answer is no! For one, there are a variety of adjustment methods that are developed as a result of necessity. Sometimes one method of adjustment is actually contraindicated for certain patients. That is why it is of utmost importance to only get adjusted by a Chiropractor. It is easy to ‘crack’ a bone (though have seen many with fractured ribs or sprained back and neck muscles because they thought they could give themselves an adjustment). Sometimes the typical side posture adjustment (the kind that most people think chiropractic adjustment looks like) is actually harmful to a patient. For instance, there are tests we do at the time of exam to rule out vascular insufficiency of the arteries in the neck. If that test is not performed, it is possible to miss something important about the patient and the needed care. Now with that said, let’s talk common sense here!!! The general media and the politics behind healthcare have historically not been pro-chiropractic because after all, when people visit chiropractors, they dont take meds, learn to live a healthier life, eat better, become active, live their lives mindfully and become aware of all of their actions influencing their health. This is not a good business for an industry that makes money with meds and procedures. With that said, occasionally we hear about ‘chiropractic adjustment killing someone”!!!! In most instances, the adjustment was not even done by a chiropractor, later gets proven that the Chiropractor did not actually hurt the patients and the most important one which is bringing logic to the equation is that if Chiropractors were harming people, their malpractice insurance would not be soooo low. We can all confidently say that insurance companies are very good at charging and over charging if they find a way so these malpractice insurance companies are not being ‘nice’ because they are nice!!! They simply can’t charge Chiropractors more because their attempt will be super obvious!!

In conclusion, let’s say that Chiropractors go to school for 8 years and learn how to adjust for a reason. The spine plays an intricate part in processing commands and reports from and to the Brain, the master coordinator and your existence depends on it. You should never take it for granted and ought to have it checked by the experts of the field, the Chiropractors.

I hope by now you know that you are the Designer and the Director of your own life so design and direct it the way you wish to live it.

Dr. Shakib


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