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Chronic B. pain Have to pop my back dozens of times a day..

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:20 AM in Chronic Pain
Hi everyone- new member here. I cannot believe I never joined this group years ago!

So I've had chronic back pain since I was 23 and I'm 30 now
My MRI doesn't show anything unusual, no relief from phys therapy, exercise or painkillers or chiropractors. X rays are fine. Epidurals helped , but only for 3 weeks.
The only thing that gives me relief is stretching my back and popping it. I distinctly feel that each one of my spine joints or ligaments are locking up and going out of alignment. I am thus forced to "unlock" or "set right" the joints by popping them. This I do by either grabbing onto the chair handles and twisting my body( for the lower back) or tightening my back muscle and pulling my arm across my chest wit the other arm for the mid back. Also I have to pull my neck towards my shoulder, and this very audibly pops my upper back.

Whenever I tell doctors this, they seem disinterested like it is unimportant. It IS important because a) Its extremely unusual ( how many folks pop their back 100 times a day?) b) its very audible- kind of like bubble wrap and c) it is the only thing that alleviates the pain and sensation of tightness.
In other words it is a very important symptom that's telling me something about my condition. I'm wondering how many of you pain sufferers out there have the same things happen to your back?


  • :) hi and welcome to the forum! we are here to offer you support and answer what questions we can. i am sorry to hear you are having trouble getting a diagnosis. this can be so difficult to deal with and have chronic pain. you will find people with all kinds of symptoms and i am sure someone will stop by and say hi! check out the Upper Back section for some more input. good luck and see you around the forum! Jenny :)
  • Welcome GuitarWhiz.

    I don't have any ideas, but wanted to ask you what kinds of doctors have you seen and exactly what kinds of xrays did you have.

    Can you tell us a little more about your symptoms?

  • Thanks for your interest Julie,

    I've seen pain specialists, orthopedic surgeons, and pysical therapy specialists

    I have had lumbar and cervical x rays- in multiple standing positions. MRI, Bone scan, and disckectomy are all fairly normal looking. Epidural shots in L4-5 have helped but only for 3 weeks. Have done physical therapy 5 times in my life and continue to do the exercizes at home as well as stretching.

    Pain is worst while I stand or sit for long.
    The only thing that gives relief is massage, stretching and aerobic exercise ( running etc)

    any ideas would help. Im pretty sure the problem is mechanical in nature.

  • Mechanical is the key. Your facet joints are responsible for motion. I used to have to get my husband to pick me up from behind and kind of bounce me until my back cracked in all areas. I would suggest asking your doc to check you for bone spurs or arthritis in your facet joints. I have arthritis in my facet joints and it is at it's worst when I sit or stand fo awhile. That is my only suggestion. Good luck and keep us posted on your progress.
  • Thats interesting. I will have to look into that- the docs have not brought that up before.
    What do you take for relief for facet joint pain? Whic medications work ( if any do at all), and what other treatments have you tried.

    Thanks a bunch for your useful suggestion
  • I am only 21 and have been chronically popped my back, neck, wrist, and knuckles for years. In the past year I've added my ankles to this list. I've been very active my entire life which could be the cause for my joint discomfort. Popping or resetting is the ONLY way i can feel relief. I've had a chiropractor x-ray my back and he said that everything is just fine. I'm so glad to find that I'm not the only one who does this. Will i just have to deal with this my whole life? It's quite unlady-like so i really wish there was some treatment for this.
  • hello,

    I have EXACTLY the same problems that you posted and I too just finished having PT after seeing an orthopedic surgeon. I happen to be a second year medical student at an osteopathic medical school (we are called DO's and we learn manipulation on top of traditional medical training) and we learn a treatment called HVLA where you use a high velocity thrust to reset the joint surface (similar to chiropractors). when I have this done by a class mate or I do it myself (50 times a day!)I get instant relief, but the relief only lasts 20 or 30 mins. I have an MRI scheduled for next week, but I honestly don't think they will find anything. I recently bought a TENS device, and I m waiting for it in the mail. It's an instrument that provides relief from spasming muscles by repetively stimulating the muscle w electrical impulses. I really hope it helps. Even if this is arthritis at the facet joint (zygopophyseal joint) I still don't understand how 1) popping it provides relief; and 2) how this causes muscle spasms. I really hope to find some relief some time in my life. If you (the poster) happen to look at this again, I have a question for you --> have you ever had thoracic surgery in which your ribs had to be spread? I had open heart surgery and I am wondering if this is a possible manifestation. thank you.
  • I agree with paininthe back I've had facet joint injections also. Ask your pain management Dr. One of the things he asked me to do is from the waist,standing bend backward at the hips. I thought I was going back fairly far like normal but after the injections I was able to move better. Also to look at someone I'd have to turn my whole body instead of turning,twisting, at the waist. So my movents are more easier to do and the desire to crack my back is not there as it was before. But I also have referred pain from the herniated disc in my case. Take care and good luck. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • i Have had this very same problem for 4 years now. i injured my back training for special forces, and was treated with steroids, to which i had an adverse reaction. It has steadily gotten worse and worse. I crack my neck literally hundreds of times in a day, and my back several. I was finally told i had spondylosis in t3-t6, but that they could not do anything until i became incontinent. They have me prescribed flexorall to take some of the edge off the resulting muscle pain, which is limited. i wish there were something that could be done...
  • I too have these same problems and am glad to hear I'm not the only one like I was starting to wonder..I have had these back pains sence I was prob 16 I'm now 23 and they seem to only get worse..like more and more joints are needed to be cracked or piped to temporarily releave the tightness/pressure/pain...when I wake up I can hardly move until I pop my back and neck joints...I have gone to diffrent drs about the issue and after ex rays and other scans they always say my back is fine...they say I have some narrowing of the disks and some bulging in some areas and some other words I never understand..but then they assure my that these issues are minor any that my back shouldn't be in any pain...but it is...after a few visits and a failed attempt on physical therapy doing any good...I started going straight to the er when my back and neck was in a lot of pain...they got very rude and accused me of trying to abuse pain pills and continued to tell me there should be no pain...I told them many times pain pills and mussel relaxers did not work anyway but they clame that surgery would only make my condition worse and that I'm too young to even qualify..they have never checked for arthritis ether because they say I'm too young for that as well...they contuned to prescribe diffrent pain pills mussel relaxers and stairoids until I had an adverse reaction...they sent me to have epidural shots in two of my lower joints..but apon arrival the dr refused to do the shots because he said they wouldent help me and prescribed yet another mussel relaxer that only makes me tired throughout the day and seems to only make my joints bother me more...I began to seek help from chiropractors who seemed to help but only to the same extent as poping myself and I found myself on a set schedule 3 sometimes 4 times a week to his office...and he only could tell me that my back seemed rubbery..and he wasent sure what was causing any of it...so I was forced to stop going because I couldn't afford it..during that time I also tried the physical therapy again and a therapist to see if the problem was in my head..with the combination of mussel relaxers, depression pills,and physical therapy it seemed to not bother me as much for a couple months but came right back...
  • Same here.

    In my opinion its inflammation causing things like muscles, ligaments, etc. to not move correctly. I popped my thoracic years and had ESI that worked and all popping went away, when pain began to creep back the popping began again, same with second ESI that hit right spot.
    With the spine it prob. is a combination of things though, you just need to find the one most likely causing yours. Prolotherapy helped with stability to an extent, popping slowed after.

    But I want to ask if your spine looks fine how are they choosing where to inject ESI?
    Herniated T6-7, multiple herniations in cervical, tears in T5-T8. Stenois at levels and smorls nodes from thoracic thru lumbar
  • I, too, 'pop' my back sometimes. Not as much anymore because a physical therapist told me how to do the same thing without causing the pop. My doctor (and the PT) told me that, in my case, the facet joints grind against each other and will get stuck to one side or the other of another facet joint. The popping causes the joint to pop back in place, relieving the pressure. That's a terrible explanation, it needs a visual, sorry. My doctor claimed this caused no additional damage or wear and said no studies have proven otherwise. He cracks his fingers all the time and says it's the same thing.

    The real problem is when you crack your joint violently. This can cause damage. My physical therapist showed me a non-violent way to "ease" the joints back in to the proper alignment. She could actually feel when a vertebrae was twisted to the right of left, and would manipulate it back in to place. The chiropractor does the same thing, but violently usually. Ever since I was shown the proper way to get the vertebrae back in line when I felt the pressure, I've had fewer issues. That's also due to the PT exercises strengthening the muscles and increasing flexibility so this mis-alignment wouldn't happen as often.
  • AsterUchihaAAsterUchiha Posts: 1
    edited 03/28/2014 - 9:48 AM
    I am in almost constant pain. My upper back pops several times a day and aches until I get it popped. I can't do it myself, though. I've tried all sorts of exercises to crack it, but I can't do it. I have to have some one else stretch and pop my back. Lately even that isn't working. The pain is concentrated between my shoulder blades.
    I have no known back problems as far as doctors can tell. There shouldn't be any pain. It has gotten worse with the years and began when I was high school. I did yoga for a year and that almost completely relieved it. I was down to popping my back once a week or so. I haven't been to yoga in about 5 months now and the pain has returned with a vengeance. One of my yoga instructors recommended I get a professional massage. The theory is that I carry my stress in my shoulders and upper back, so the muscles are extremely knotted and tense, which puts pressure on my spine and causes pain. I haven't had a doctor confirm that, but following that theory and stretching the muscles has helped my spine.
  • After a year of searching the internet, I have found people with the same symptoms that I have had to deal with for the last 3 years. I am very interested in how this can develop and help us rid this pain together.

    A little about how and when my pain started. After graduating college, where I was an athlete as well as worked out twice a day minimum, I landed a desk job :). After about a year of sitting at a desk 75% of the day and not working out at all, I started to notice the strain in my mid back, exactly between the bottom of my shoulder blades. I disregarded this for about a year and regret it now. Since then a factor that may attribute is I gained about 30lbs from eating fast food and drinking monsters, once a day.

    As of recently I feel the pain most when sitting at a chair or especially a bar stool where i'm leaning forward and and worst is after eating. Ive found that the chiropractor can set my back and it will go away for about an hour then it's back. I started working out again, and it does subside while doing that.

    I'm excited to see everyone's thoughts...
  • I also have a lot of popping in my joints. When I was younger I was always popping my wrist, fingers,shoulders,ankles, toes neck and back. I had a doctor tell me that the sound was from a built up of nitrogen gases that build up in our joint quickly escaping. To me it was almost addicting. The more I did it the more I needed to. It got to the point that I was doing all day long. About 2 years ago I was doing my twisting bending thing to my back for second I thought I broke or something.. The noise was so loud and I had shooting a pain that went down both legs to my feet. At that time I realized I could be doing some real damage especially since my back has advance DDD with herniated disc ect. Today I do not try do it on purpose on any of my joints but it still happens sometime. Today I find taking mortin 3 time s a day helps lessen the pain for when it does happen. My suggestion to other is to find a more gentle way to relieve that pressure.
  • I use to be able to pop my back to relieve the stiffness and pain, but since I had a car accident in 2007 I have not been able to pop my back in the area that it hurt anymore. I long for the days when I use to be able to do that lol. I can still pop my neck and upper back and it helps to loosen up these areas, but the lumbar area that hurts the most will no longer pop. Probably due to the fusions i had there. I hate that I went through the time and trouble of spinal surgery to just end up still hurting. Good luck with your problem mate and keep popping if it makes it feel better.
  • AsterUchiha said:
    I am in almost constant pain. My upper back pops several times a day and aches until I get it popped. I can't do it myself, though. I've tried all sorts of exercises to crack it, but I can't do it. I have to have some one else stretch and pop my back. Lately even that isn't working. The pain is concentrated between my shoulder blades.
    Have you ever tried to use a foam roll or tennis ball to give yourself relief?
    Grade I Spondylolisthesis L5-S1, bilateral pars issues
    Mild Scoliois double curve
    Arthritic activity in SI area and L5 through L3
    Chronic headache
    Nerve pain
  • JasonLeeHQJJasonLeeHQ Posts: 1
    edited 07/26/2014 - 10:06 PM
    I started having back pain in the 4th grade, and popped my back relentlessly until several years ago. I'm 36 now, and nearly pain free. I've attributed it to a combination of the following: using my ( EDIT) daily 3x (probably fixed 60% of my pain by allowing the fluid back into the spinal areas it wasn't getting), seeing my chiropractor ritualistically 2x a week (still do, probably fixed 20%), hot yoga (20%). Hope that helped guys, good luck and stay consistent, if I were to recommend one thing it would be the inversion table.

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    Post Edited by Liz The Spine-Health Moderator Team

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  • I developed these symptoms while I was working over the summer at my first desk job. After months of these symptoms I went to a chiropractor and had an adjustment and like many others it helped for a few hours but inevitably it returned to its original popping and cracking. When I stretch I feel some relief, and also when I work out, but I think it's either due to the endorphines from working out, or from working out the surrounding muscle group. I have been doing plenty of research and it seems to me that everything I've been reading has been pointing to this popping and pain as a symptom of tight muscles or muscular imbalances. I have bad posture, a forward tilt in my hips (tight hip flexors/tight spinus erector and weak glutes and abdominals) and rounded shoulders (overactivated chest). Muscles are part of what helps hold our bones in place so I think that due to me being stooped over a computer all day during the summer I've caused some tightness/stress to develop in my mid-back muscles that may be the root cause of my symptoms. I know another post mentioned that yoga almost cured the symptoms. I feel that a combination of exercise, stretching and good posture to strengthen muscles and correct muscular imbalances might be beneficial. I have started a program and have already begun to see some results. I first started off by releasing some midback tension with these self massages (http://www.do-it-yourself-joint-pain-relief.com/middle-back-pain-relief.html#Video1), and have been strengthening my mid-back, gluteus, and abdominals. I also am going to take up yoga soon and see if those stretches work better than the stretches I currently do for my hip flexors and chest. Can't really stretch the spinus erectors because that may result in instability so I am settling for strengthening my abdominals and hamstrings (the agonist muscles). I hope any of this information can benefit someone. If there are any flaws in my theories or plans let me know so I can self correct accordingly.
  • leesuhbethlleesuhbeth Posts: 1
    edited 12/07/2014 - 4:27 AM
    Most of these posts exactly describe my condition (whatever it may) especially the initial post. I just finished 6 wks of PT, and while they found excessive movement of my spine, they could not figure out what was causing it or why it was causing me pain. Nor could they find anything that caused flare ups. 6 weeks later and I'm still in pain.
    My MRI is scheduled but I doubt they'll find anything as my xrays showed nothing out of the ordinary.
    I do wonder, how many of us were very active as children and young adults and drastically slowed down our activity as we aged?
  • I pulled a muscle on the right lower back 3 years ago , workman's comp was too conservative with treatment. By the time it was under control, the left side was excruciating from compensation. So went to a pain and spine place, facet injections diagnosed a lot of the pain was from facet issues and I got a lot of relief from the steroid injections (plus ab/back exercises), but I still have a lower left back (closer to the hip) issue that ONLY relieves when I breathe deep into the pelvis and back and it gives an excruciating sudden jerk pop and finally I have relief. My doctor also is disinterested. Very, very frustrating to know what relieves it, but allopathic practitioners are not interested in what I say. Sometimes I cannot get the area to pop though. Anyone else?
  • oldgitooldgit Posts: 1
    edited 01/23/2015 - 7:41 AM
    I have had the same condition which I have suffered from since 2003. I am now 43. After 11 years of suffering and being unsuccessful in obtaining any help or diagnosis from medical professionals, I decided to embark on my own investigation and experiment into the cause of these symptoms. I have so far come to the following conclusions which I must emphasise, have no scientific evidence or foundation and are simple observations of my body's function and response. Firstly, I noticed there was a definate correlation between the scale of discomfort and how tired I was, if i had obtained a good, long nights sleep then the discomfort was definately less. Secondly, and some of you will probably doubt the validity of this claim, I noticed that whenever I had a sickness bug causing vomiting and nausia, a side effect would be that the tightness/stiffness in my back and shoulders completely dissappeared and I mean completely, I could twist and turn without having any pain or discomfort or cracking noises and temporarily lost the desire or need to continually relieve the disomfort by twisting so that my back cracked. Unfortunately this relief only lasted as long as the sickness bug was in my system then the symptoms would return, this happened on several occasions and lead me to consider the possibility that the condition might be caused by a particular bacteria in the gut.
    Thirdly, intensive aerobic exercise also relieved the symptoms. I am now convinced that the discomfort and stiffness is caused by inflammation caused by a pathogen, either in the body itself or more likely in the digestive system. I have experimented by elimintaing various foods from my diet to see if this has a positive effect on the amount of discomfort and have found that, in my particular case, through completely eliminating MILK and DAIRY products from my diet I have brought down the amount of discomfort I have to a level where it is no longer playing a predominant role in my daily life. I am now in a position where I have to twist to relieve the stiffness in my back only a couple of times a day and on the odd occasion where I give in to the temptation of eating a food containing milk , I find that the next day I suffer more with the stifness and discomfort. I hope this helps some sufferers find a similar solution to this condition.
    P.S if you want give it a go by elliminating milk and dairy from your diet, be warned, they are used as an ingrediant in a huge range of foods so you have to be very diligiant when shopping


    Please keep in mind, what works for one patient my be harmful to another. Its always good to hear what others have tried, but before you try it on yourself, contact your doctor

    Spine-health moderator
  • dplikuhnddplikuhn Posts: 1
    edited 01/23/2015 - 9:13 AM
    I have been sedentary in my job for the last 1.5 years and without exercising 3-4 times a week, including shoulder external rotation exercises and cardio to relieve stress, I am sure all the tightness in the back of my neck would be much worse. I have to roll and crack my neck all day for a relief of tightness, and while massages help, as soon as I am back in the desk chair the problem returns.

    Some of my workout routine is probably not helping the problem in combination with my forward head posture all day. I want to try yoga regularly, which is supposed to be great for your strength, balance and flexibility. I am under the impression that yoga, similar to a well-balanced workout, forces you to use all your muscle groups so that one side of the body is not WAY more dominant or bulkier than the opposite side.

    I also feel like drinking a lot of water is essential, and eating well of course.

    Everything in moderation. People were not meant to be sitting all day. Our spines are healthiest when we do not burden them too much but keep our bodies moving.

  • ...and a few others, you sound like a a DCs dream. If back cracking your back is your medicine and makes you feel better, im sure alot of us would trade that for a few days. If there absolutelky nothing medically dianosed based on diagnostic tests, not sure anyone can help you here.

    I truly believe that Neurosurgeons are usually the most qualified as they specialize in the spine and brain, and of course all the nerves and muscles running up your back. Of you've seen a very experienced NS, had a recent MRI, Cat Scan and Xrays, and they see nothing, what else could they do. Orthos will also tackle some back issues, but most I know or have read on here usually refer you to a NS

    Do your other joints pop like that?

    The tests I mention are very expensive and getting insurance companies to pay for these without any medical proof or evidwnce to support them can also be a problem.
  • I have the same problem. I'm only 22. N I'm gonna make some blood test my own next week. Discopathy, sciatica, loss of intervertebral discs in my neck, the pain, stiffness and popping, all doctors don't know what's that, but they don't try to find out, they just have gave me painkillers since I was 17. Someone asked, if we all have been active and suddenly stopped. I have.
  • They found that I have Lyme borreliosis and very high ASO ( 1600 ).
  • hi I just decided to look online and see who else is having the same symptoms and I am so stiff when I wake up the teen all started in my back and with a brand new migraine that traveled up my neck around my right ear into my temple it lasts the whole week at the billete to me I constantly have to crack and pop my joints in my neck to even prevent the migraine from happening that's the only thing that gets rid of it too I've had I wish somebody would tell me what is wrong with me going back to the same doctor who's worthless again today I've also had bone scans, mri's on my head and my upper back they only found scoliosis in my lower back I can't sleep I can't work I am now 33 years old it started 6 years ago when I was pregnant with my twins I feel like there might have been a connection there they're treating me for fibromyalgia its not helping anyone else got the exact same symptoms
  • I've never actually done any research on this, it's just something I've lived with for years. When I was 8 years old my parents were rear ended while I was in the back seat and that messed up my neck growing up to where I had to pop it frequently. More recently when I was 25 (I'm now 33), I was hit by a semi broadside on the driver side of my Toyota Corolla. I've had the exact symptoms described by the OP and others since. There is a possibility that there was some trauma to my ribs as well and I may have broken my left foot, but I've actually to this day never been examined.
    I use the same method described to pop my back multiple times per day and also, as another post stated, I don't experience the symptoms whenever I'm ill. I just had a stomach bug and missed a full week of work the week before last and not once did my back bother me.
    Sometimes I lay on the bed facing up and slowly slide myself off the edge to put pressure on my back. Other times I would ask my ex wife or current gf to push or even walk on it, which helps even if it doesn't pop.
    When my lower back gets tight, most times it feels like my hips are mis aligned. If I twist in my chair or on the bed both ways it helps but still feels tight more so on one side than the other. In the upper back it usually feels like a tightness just to the right side of my left shoulder blade. I usually pull each arm as described by the OP , or Ill push my chin to my chest and kind of shrug while pulling my shoulders forward to loosen it up.
    Anyhow, it's been nearly 8 years now that I've dealt with this and as much as I wouldn't wish it on anyone its nice to know I'm not the only one.
    Also sorry for any typos and whatnot, as I'm posting from my phone at 330am
  • I'm 18 and I've been having to crack my back since like 2 years ago everyday, numerous times a day. I crack my back like anytime I can, about once every 2-3 minutes. Its annoying and is getting serious to me. I don't think this is the proper way a human body functions.
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