Many people crack their knuckles on a regular basis and, although the rumors have always been persistent that knuckle cracking could lead to rheumatoid arthritis, no evidence has been found to suggest that. But what about “popping” your back or neck? Is there a chance that popping either of those could lead to a spine condition?
Where does the “pop” come from?
The popping sound heard when cracking your neck or spine is believed to come from the same process that makes your knuckles crack. Joints are surrounded by fluid-filled membranes that act as a lubricant and shock absorber so your bones don’t grind together when you move. The gases in the fluid, most notably nitrogen and carbon dioxide, escape when pressure is applied to the joint, which creates the popping sound.
Can popping your back or neck lead to a spine condition?
Cracking your back once in a while should not be a cause for concern, nor does it mean that you will develop arthritis or a spine condition as a result.
However, that doesn’t mean that habitually popping your back or neck is without risks. When you routinely crack your neck or back, you’re putting yourself at risk for hypermotility, which essentially means your joints, tendons, muscles and ligaments lose elasticity. In addition, the urge to pop your neck or back on a regular basis may be a sign of an underlying condition, which should be examined by a specialist.
The Bottom Line
Although popping your back and neck once in a while may not do you any harm, doing so habitually, or even having the urge to do so frequently, may be a warning sign that something else is going on. Habitually cracking your back could wear out your joints and connective tissue, making them lose elasticity and put you at risk for discomfort or worse, chronic pain. So be sure to keep your popping in check!