If you train Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, then you know very well just how stiff your back can get. All of that inverting, getting stacked, pressure passed and twisted into all directions takes its toll. And, when your back feels stiff, what do you want the most? That’s right – you want relief.
That’s the reason why a lot of Jiujiteiros resort to cracking their own back. And it sure does feel extremely good… But is it healthy for you? What’s more – is it dangerous?
Let’s take a look at what medicine has to say about this matter.
WHAT’S THAT CRACKING SOUND… HOW DOES YOUR BACK ACTUALLY „CRACK“?
Well, that’s a valid enough question. Science has stipulated a number of reasons so as to why your spine cracks. However, it’s mostly believed that the cracking sound is from „cavitation“.
In other words, when the tension is administered to a joint, to the point where the synovial fluid (fluid that lubricates the joint so as to allow the ease of movement) accumulates – the gasses found in the fluid form a bubble and create that sweet cracking sound.
There are other causes as well, however. The movement of your joints, ligaments and tendons can produce pretty much the same cracking sound when they move out of place and then return back to their original position.
WHY DOES IT FEEL SO GOOD?
There are different reasons so as to why cracking your back feels good. Firstly, it may be simply because you’re convinced that it’s helping you with the stiffness. In other words, it could be tied to a placebo effect taking place; where the cracking sound is associated with the feeling of release.
Secondly, it may be because of the movement in and of itself. You probably know what we’re talking about; have you ever twisted your back into a certain direction and it felt good just doing that, without the cracking taking place at all? The movement has been the thing which provided temporary relief.
But whatever the reason may be, the truth still holds: cracking your back really does feel great! But, is it healthy for you? Or is it bad?
IS CRACKING YOUR BACK GOOD OR BAD FOR YOUR HEALTH?
The first association with cracking your back, and joints in general, is the one of arthritis. You’ve probably been told numerous times that cracking your joints will leave you with this condition; but studies haven’t been able to provide any evidence for this claim. There’s a famous experiment by doctor Donald Unger, who cracked only the knuckles on his left hand for 50 years so as to see if this would cause arthritis. The study, in the end, showed that the answer was – no.
But your back is a more complex structure than the knuckles of your hand are. Still, the opinion among the doctors, generally, is that occasional cracking of your back won’t cause you any harm; it will make you feel good. But, likewise, there’s almost no evidence in regards if it will actually provide you with any actual health benefits.
So, it feels good but it doesn’t do any good either when done in moderation. But, what if it’s done to an excess – too frequently, multiple times per day? This is where the problems can occur. The pressure you’re applying in order to crack your back may cause your joints to wear out – which will cause pain and other spinal problems with time.
In conclusion: yes, crack your back here and there, to feel that sweet, sweet relief. But don’t overdo it, unless you want to face long-lasting consequences.