I “Pop” My Own Back

Before I get to the question I should post this link:  What does a chiropractic adjustment do?  

The question that I get all the time is, “What happens, and is it ok, if I, or a friend, pops my back rather than a chiropractor?”  My patients are concerned that they may damage something when they attempt self manipulation.  There is never a straight answer to these kind of questions.  So, yes you may damage something when trying to adjust your own back or someone else’s.  Some of the more common risks associated with “popping your own spine” are acquired torticollis, muscle strain, sprain, hyper-mobility (too much motion) and headache.  Less likely but possible risks are fracture, vertebral artery dissection (stroke), dislocation, and paralysis.

Now that I’ve scared you a little; let me say that you would have to have a very forceful and violent movement to do most if any of those things.

We have all heard pops happen when we are moving normally.


Those pops are fine. When you’re stretching and something happens to pop it is usually great too.  The problem comes as I’ve said with forceful, purposeful motions.  You’ve probably seen the person sitting across from you tilt their head, then yank on it.  That’s bad.  These are the patients who will someday walk into my office with their head to the side saying, “Doc, I can’t move my head.”  That is torticollis.

Now, joint motion is good.  Let me address popping your own joints as a form of treatment.  A Chiropractor will assess specific joints, find restrictions and adjust them sometimes getting a pop.  If you try to adjust yourself you will likely end up getting some popping sounds somewhere, but you will probably only get temporary relief, if any at all.  You can also make things worse by producing a hyper-mobility in the surrounding areas rather than getting motion to the dysfunction.

I encourage you to stretch and take your body through all of the ranges of motion that you can.  That will often solve your problem and may or may not pop.  If stretching does help, that is great. If range of motion exercise does not solve your problem then seek chiropractic help.


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