Why exactly does my back crack so much when I twist my upper body?
Back cracking can feel good. In addition to making a satisfying sound, cracking your back can feel like you are releasing built-up pressure, aligning your spine and easing tension. A study found that joint cracking sounds can lead to immediate relief and release good-feeling hormones called endorphins. This can be true even if no actual change was made in your joints.
Despite it feeling so good, you may want to look deeper into your symptoms if your back cracks every time you twist or bend. Certain symptoms can tell you whether your back cracking is normal or if it is a sign of injury.
If your back cracking after twisting is accompanied with pain or swelling in the surrounding area of a recent injury, you should see a medical professional or speak to a physical therapist as soon as possible. On the other hand, painless back cracking that occurs every now and then can be normal and relieving.
What’s happening when my back cracks when I twist?
In general, pain-free joint cracking occurs when the pressure changes inside your joint capsule. Gasses can become trapped inside the synovial fluid in a joint and create bubbles that naturally collapse or pop. When you purposefully crack your back by twisting, you are releasing those gas bubbles.
The cracking of your lower back may also be due to the manipulation of the facet joints in your spine. Whenever you stretch or twist your spine, the facet joints move and align themselves, leading to an audible crack. Your tendons and ligaments may also produce a popping sound when you move them in and out of their aligned positions.
Why does my back crack so much when I twist?
If you constantly feel the urge to crack your back by twisting, it doesn’t necessarily indicate a health issue. However, it could be a sign of joint damage due to an injury or arthritis. Your back may crack as a result of:
- Arthritis — Arthritis is a general term for the inflammation of the joints. Arthritis that affects the spine is called ankylosing spondylitis, and it often involves redness, heat, swelling and pain in the back. The excess inflammation caused by arthritis can create cracking sounds when you twist your back.
- Cartilage loss — When the cartilage in your spine wears down over time, increased friction results in bone-on-bone contact. This friction can sometimes produce a grinding or popping sound. If you’re able to purposely re-create the same sound every time you twist your back, it may be a sign of cartilage deterioration.
- Tendon or ligament snapping — Muscle tightness in your back can cause your ligaments or tendons to rub up against your spinal bones. This friction can cause a cracking noise.
It’s important for you to avoid cracking your back too forcefully, as you can damage your spine by:
- Pinching nerves — If you crack your back too quickly, you can pinch a major nerve in your back. For example, sciatica occurs when your sciatica nerve is pinched or entrapped, leading to intense back pain. Sometimes pinched nerve pain won't go away without medical help.
- Straining muscles — When you twist your back to crack it, you are stretching your back muscles. Your back isn’t meant to be stretched constantly and can tear if overused. This type of injury can limit your mobility.
- Damaging blood vessels — If you crack your back too much while twisting, you can damage major blood vessels that run up to your brain. You may be increasing your risk of developing blood clots if you crack your back often.
It can be a good idea for you to get your back professionally adjusted by a chiropractor or physical therapist.
Alliance PTP is ready to help you find top-notch PT for back cracking concerns
Are you concerned about how much your back cracks when you twist or bend? At Alliance Physical Therapy Partners, we’re proudly bringing together physical therapy practices across the country to help people get the high-quality PT they need. Want to see a physical therapist in person? We can put you in touch with an Alliance PTP partner that’s close to you and that can help you find the reason why your back cracks so much when you twist.
Not keen on in-person PT sessions or not close to an Alliance PTP partner? No worries. We also offer effective and affordable virtual physical therapy through our Agile Virtual Physical Therapy platform.
Come find a physical therapist who can help address your back problems.