These Back “Cracking” Home Remedies Can Cause More Bad Than Good

Have you ever had someone walk on your back or ask you to walk on their back? Back pain can lead us to do things that are not always in our best interest. Feeling the need to have your back “cracked” is uncomfortable, and besides the back walking home remedy, there are other things that we might look to for relief. Let’s look at cracking some of these common home remedy myths.

Unless you are a chiropractor…

Keep in mind that chiropractors receive extensive training and have the knowledge of what the spine needs to be at its best. If you have visited a chiropractor, you may have experienced some light to moderate cracking to relieve stress on joints.  

What most people don’t realize is that the sound that they hear at the chiropractor’s office is not the same as when they have someone walk on their back or employ another home, back-cracking remedy. When we try to crack our own backs, we are looking to relieve pressure, but the intent behind a chiropractic adjustment is to move the bone into the proper position with the bones above and below it and enlarge the areas where nerves pass between the bones to take the pressure off of the nerve. Although you may feel great after someone walks on your back and also great after you visit your chiropractor, only the adjustment can take the pressure off of a nerve and allow the body to function better.

Myth #1: Daily cracking is not a bad thing

As we move through our day, routine movements that we make can cause our bones to be stretched apart. As this happens, the area between the synovial joints (where two of our mobile bones come together) becomes wider. Air bubbles form in the synovial fluid, and when you forcefully stretch your bones apart, the bubbles burst and release nitrogen and dioxide- causing a “cracking” noise. In reality, you are not actually “cracking” anything, you are just popping those bubbles that have formed in the synovial joints. Common areas include the neck, vertebrae, fingers, and knees. 

The big issue with at-home cracking methods is that joints are not designed to be stretched. When we stretch and crack frequently, they become less and less stable. Unfortunately, this can lead to chronic back pain and swelling and even dislocated fingers and sciatica.

Myth #2: Cracking your back on a chair

Some people may even try cracking their back with the use of a chair. There are two common chair cracking methods that are usually employed. The first involves slowly lowering your spine over the back of a chair. The second involves twisting your body around the back of the chair, forcing the back to crack. However, this type of movement forces the vertebrae and joints beyond their normal mobility range and places extensive pressure on joints. Sadly, this type of movement is actually counterproductive, causing more tension in the spine. 

Myth #3: Back walking brings relief

Back walking is not a new activity and has roots in a similar ancient practice, Chavutti Thirumal. When roughly translated, the word “Chavutti”: means foot of leg. The word “Thirumal” means massage. This process which stems from the Kerala region of India was used by practitioners of martial arts as well as classical dance. This back walking process spread to areas of Japan where the focus on pressure points was added. The name given to this back walking technique was Ashiatsu, or foot pressure. Once back walking arrived in the West it became a popular activity used to reduce back pain. 

The reality is, back walking can actually send you into a never-ending cycle of pain and inflammation. When someone walks on your back, it forces your muscles to activate and work double-time, just to keep your back stable. You may feel instant relief after having someone take a stroll on your spine, but your muscles will tighten over time, sending you in search of a back walker and starting the neverending cycle.

Myth #4 The bear hug

Hugs are nice and pleasurable, but using the bear hug technique to relieve tension in your back can be seriously dangerous. A case in point involves a 20-year-old woman who ended up in the emergency room complaining of thoracic back pain and chest discomfort. The day before, her boyfriend had used the “bear hug” method to “crack” her back. Testing revealed a trauma-induced pneumothorax as a result of the bear hug. The patient required a chest tube thoracostomy and hospitalization to treat damage caused by the bear hug.

How to safely relieve back pressure

If visiting a chiropractor is not something that you can make happen, there are a few techniques that you can try at home to safely and gently relieve pressure in your back.

  • Cobra or child’s pose
  • Rocking stretch
  • Leg-over-leg stretch
  • Rock on an exercise ball
  • Roll on a foam roller
  • Sit and reach stretch

Stay safe, and if in pain or discomfort, visit your physician or chiropractor immediately.

-The Alternative Daily

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