If you’re anything like me, you’re intimately familiar with the dull backache after staying in the same position for a long time. Usually, I can get relief by stretching a bit until I hear a satisfying popping sound. But if you’re unsure how you can do that without compromising this delicate and sensitive area of your body, this guide will show you how to crack your back safely.
Before I get started, you ought to know what causes that odd popping sound we hear when we overextend our back. Well, one popular theory suggests that moving the body in specific ways dislodges pockets of gasses that come out of the fluid that lubricates our joints. Generally, cracking your own back (or fingers or what have you) isn’t considered dangerous.
However, some doctors caution against cracking your back without the help of a trained professional. People with some spine conditions certainly shouldn’t go around messing with their backs. Still, if you’re otherwise healthy, there are ways to alleviate that dull pressure that signifies you’re overdue for a massage.
How to Crack Your Back Alone and With a Partner
1. Sitting on a Chair
If you notice that your back is ripe for cracking while you’re working at your desk, you can easily do it without even getting up. Twist your back in one direction without shifting your hips and legs. Then grab the corner of the back of the chair with both hands and give it a sharp tug.
After you hear the popping sounds, turn in the other direction and repeat the process. And, of course, you’d have to have a chair with a solid and relatively short back.
2. Twist It Out
Start by sitting on the floor with your legs together and stretched out in front of you. Lean back on your left hand, bringing your left leg up and placing your left foot on the other side of your right knee. Twist your back to the left and use your right elbow to push the outside of your left knee. When you’re satisfied with the results, twist in the opposite direction, using the left elbow to push against your right knee.
3. Twist on the Floor
Now, let’s talk about some floor exercises you could do. First, lie on your back with your legs bent at the knees. Without moving your shoulders off the floor, gently sway your knees side to side until your back cracks.
If you want an advanced version of the floor twist, start by lying on your side with your bottom leg outstretched. Your top leg should be bent at the knee or even stretched out to the side. Take your top arm and stretch it up, then bring it down to the floor, turning your head in the same direction. Your spine should be completely twisted at that point — and you can repeat on the other side, as always.
4. Rock on the Lower Back
While you’re at it, you can work on your lower back as well. Simply bring your knees up to your chest and hug them with both your arms. Then gently rock your body back and forth in tight circles to work out the kinks.
5. Use a Foam Roller or an Exercise Ball
Staying on the floor with your knees bent, you can put in a firm foam roller underneath your shoulder blades. Then, straighten your knees to roll your back over the roller. You could even turn it at a bit of an angle before rolling to get a different sensation.
If you want a lighter version of this exercise, you can try to use a big exercise ball — just be careful not to slip off.
6. Lean on a Partner
If you want to know how to crack your back with a partner, you ought to be aware of any potential risks. According to some professionals, having someone else crack your back may be more dangerous than doing it yourself. Still, there are some exercises you could do with a partner. For example, here’s one you could do with a friend of a similar height.
Stand back to back, interlocking your arms at the elbows. While holding onto each other securely, tell your partner to slowly and carefully lean forward. That should elongate your back, releasing some of those gas bubbles that are caught in your joints.
7. Let a Partner Press Your Kinks Out
My favorite way of cracking my back with a partner is something I learned from a masseuse friend. You lie face-down on the floor and have your partner put their feet on either side of your hips. They should make their hands into fists and place them on both sides of your spine, near your shoulder blades.
Before they press down, take a deep breath. Then, slowly release it as your partner transfers their weight from their feet to their hands. They should push down and slightly forward until the popping noises stop. Then, move down and repeat the same thing several more times until you get to the lower back.
That part isn’t as easy to crack with this technique, so you might want to use one of the others I’ve recommended above.
Work Out the Kinks
As you can see, learning how to crack your back without endangering your health is a matter of practice. But if you still don’t want to do it on your own, you can lessen your pain in other ways. For example, when my back pain is too severe even to attempt these exercises, I like to use heat packs on it. That will tide you over until you can see your physician or chiropractor.