Why Does Cracking or Popping My Back Initially Relieve My Pain? And It Doesn’t Last!

Back Pain Video

Dr. Chris Ingstad here with LEVEL4 Physio-Wellness-Performance.

I hope you’re having a great day. I’ve got a question a woman asked me about a month ago about “cracking or popping my back” that I’d like to share.

I thought I would finally record something (see video below) and share that information with the rest of the world.

So, the question came from a young lady that came into our clinic.

And her question was regarding why she had back pain, and when she popped or cracked her back, she found that it was relieving.

But as time went on, the length of time in which she felt that relief dramatically decreased to the point where it eventually did not help her.

“Why does cracking or popping my back initially give my back pain some relief, but lately it hasn’t been helping much?” – Concerned Client

Cracking Or Popping My Back

That’s a great question!

I want to go ahead and explain that, but first, let me explain one thing about the physiology of how a pop or a crack occurs.

Inside your joints in your spine are no different than the joints in your fingers, in your hip, or even into your knee or ankle.

They all have cartilage… they all have fluid… and they’re all contained or surrounded by a joint capsule.

And inside that joint capsule, the fluid, which has a component of nitrogen, under normal circumstances nitrogen is a liquid.

When you have that pop or crack and you feel that sense of relief, what’s now happened is that has converted from a liquid now to a gas.

I want you to think of it like a bottle of champagne.

If you got the cork in the top, that gas, which in that case is carbon dioxide, is under pressure, and it is also in a liquid form.

But the second you remove that cork and you see the bubbly come out, that pressure is now being relieved and the carbon dioxide is released in the form of bubbles.

Why Does It Provide Relieve?

Why is it that it only provided her relief for a short time period?

Well the reason for that is mechanoreceptors, which are these little nerve endings inside your joints and inside your back that relay information to your brain.

And what they do is they tend to inhibit the pain fibers that run into your brain.

So, again, it’s only temporary though.

If the problem was strictly just in the brain, then it might be assisting.

But unfortunately, the root cause of her problem came from somewhere else.

Finding The Cause

With a proper examination, we were able to identify that part of her issue was actually the weakness of the surrounding musculature into her back, into her hips, and also related a bit to her posture.

So, we identified these problems and came up with a program that focused primarily on those issues.

We first educated her on not popping her back, or the attempt to resist that.  To some people, that can be very, very difficult to do.

We then gave her education on posture, and we gave her exercises that related to improving her posture.

And then lastly, we gave her very specific exercises that targeted on the areas where she exhibited the greatest weakness that we felt contributed to her problem.

After working with her for a month, she did great and her symptoms were almost nearly gone.

She is also now at a point where she’s managing using a home exercise program.

We were able to accomplish this very quickly for her.  This was awesome for her, but does often take some time to make a full recovery.

Now that doesn’t happen all the time… It definitely was one that we enjoyed having the opportunity to help her because she’s so much happier now.  She’s back to doing her athletic activities, and she’s definitely enjoying not being in pain all the time.

What To Do Next

So if you’d like to find out more information about this, go to our back pain page and there you’ll find a lot of useful information. Here is a quick video that discusses back pain and what can be done to help relieve it (VIDEO).

We hope that you find this information helpful.

And if you have any other questions, don’t be afraid to reach out.

We always say education is power.


Dr. Chris Ingstad, DPT, OCS, MTC, ATC, FAAOMPT

Chris Ingstad, PT, DPT, OCS, MTC, ATC, FAAOMPT

Performance Physical Therapist at Level4 Physio-Wellness-Performance
Dr. Chris Ingstad is a nationally-known Physical Therapist and Co-Founder of Level4 Physio-Wellness-Performance, San Diego’s Leading Specialist Private Physical Therapy and Human Performance Practice for People in their 40’s, 50’s and beyond, who value their health and want to remain active.

You might know Dr. Chris as a National Conference presenter on various rehabilitation topics, including on treating people with shoulder, neck and low back injuries. He also teaches at the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences in the Musculoskeletal track, where he brings clinical practice into the classroom for future physical therapists. He also is published in Jiu Jitsu Magazine and Coastal Newspaper on various areas, including low back and neck and shoulder injuries.

Dr. Chris’ background included working extensively with athletes with shoulder, knee and low back injuries, taking them from post-injury or post-operative to return to sport. He prides himself on the ability to get positive outcomes, even with difficult cases. Level4 Physio-Wellness-Performance is now a large multi-physical therapist specialty practice in Encinitas, CA. In his free time, he enjoys cycling, golfing, hiking/camping, and training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Chris Ingstad, PT, DPT, OCS, MTC, ATC, FAAOMPT

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