What Happens When You Pop Your Back?
Doctor Advice

What Happens When You Pop Your Back?

Question: Popping your back -what is exactly going on when you do this?

I was standing out on my balcony yesterday, and my back was in pain, so sometimes I find if I put my hands on the railing and push down, which raises my body up, my back goes pop pop pop pop pop, (like cracking your knuckles). What exactly is going on in there when I 'pop' my back? The popping didn't help my pain, but it felt good, sort of like stretching. I was just wondering, what exactly is popping in there? Do you think this popping can be harmful to my spine, or could cause more damage?

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Doctor's Response: The popping does not cause damage to the spine

The popping noise is thought to be coming from a rush of nitrogen into the facet joints as they open up. It does not cause any harm to the joint. Stretching generally makes the muscles of the back feel better.

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In Spine-health’s Doctor Advice section, physicians respond to frequently asked questions about back pain issues. These responses represent the opinion of one physician, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the broader medical community. The advice presented has not been peer reviewed by Spine-health’s medical advisory board.

Article written by: Peter F. Ullrich, Jr., MD