By no means do I want to trivialize serious drug addictions, but there is also a very serious concern about the spinal habits people, especially adolescents, have about how they treat their spine. There may be someone you know and love who is permanently damaging their spine, and you need to know about it.
One of the common misconceptions about chiropractic care is that the popping noise (or "cracking", as some call it) is the source of relief during a chiropractic adjustment. In reality, the specific directional movement that re-aligns a spine can sometimes make a noise, and sometimes not, and is the real source of results. As the spine is aligned and more stable, there is reduced spinal irritation and improved nerve function. Also known as results! As a chiropractor, I care a little about the noise that is produced during an adjustment, and passionately that your body gets the correct force to restore normal alignment and nerve function.
Every single person who "cracks" their own spine, especially repeatedly for relief, is actually creating a dangerous, de-stabilizing injury. To be clear, I am NOT referring to the noise that sometimes happens when you move you spine. I am referring to any movements that intentionally create popping noises by turning, twisting or forcing the spine.
Here's a scenario: a family member says to you "I can crack my own neck and it feels great! Why would I need to go to a chiropractor?" Unfortunately, this type of comment is all too common among people who seem to think that this immediate short-term relief is good for you. This is incorrect! I find this to be true in a higher frequency of adolescents and teens, likely because their spines are suffering significantly from postural positions during growth periods.
The truth is this: anytime you feel like your spinal joints need to be "cracked" or released, this is a signal your body is sending you saying that something is unstable and misaligned. If the instability is advanced enough, the whole region around the irritation can feel painful, have muscle spasms, and have very limited movement.
Here's where it goes from bad to worse: twisting your spine in an unfocused, non-corrective way causes some joints to become too loose, adding further instability. With enough self-cracking, there are now two primary injuries- the original instability causing the feeling of needing to be cracked, and the hyper-mobile joints created by repeated twisting. Healing these injuries is harder, requires more time, and can leave the chance of more permanent structural damage.
There is NO WAY for you to reproduce the direct movements produced by a chiropractic adjustment with your own hands. This is similar to giving yourself a massage in that there is no way to produce the same effect in your back and spine.
Every month it seems that another person comes in to our office who was twisting their neck or spine over and over until eventually it was no longer helping relieve their discomfort. Most of the time, these people now have a much bigger problem. If this was you, you weren't alone. If this wasn't you, make sure the people you love are not harming themselves!
In reality, self-twisting and cracking motions are more alike to a self-mutilation than to a healing therapy. It creates massive distortions of the spine, high levels of obstruction to your nerves, and significant long-term stability problems. Get adjusted properly and eliminate the sensation that you need to crack your neck!