Just how effective is chiropractor back cracking?
April 4, 2006 3:05 PM   Subscribe

If I already crack my own back and neck, will chiropractor cracking do anything more for me?

I've read the other chiro-tagged posts here. I'm not asking about whether or not I should be cracking my own neck and back (sounds like I shouldn't, but there it is) and I'm not asking whether chiros are quacks (mixed results, but sounds like plenty of people find them useful for some things) or whether I should see an osteo or accupuncturist or other type of specialist.

I'm just thinking about going to a chiro and am wondering if I'll be wasting my time, especially since my insurance doesn't cover it. Have any of you who have cracked their own necks and backs but have also had chiros crack them noticed a substantial difference in what the chiro does?

I've got chronic lower back pain and now have to crack it various ways when I wake up just to get loose and get a bit of relief. I'm not sure how much more it could be cracked. If I'm already doing it, can a chiro crack it further or better in a way that provides longer-lasting relief? On the same note, should I avoid cracking it the morning of the day I go see him? I mean, can things be double-cracked in a short time or should I save it up so he can really give a hum-dinger crack?

Also, there's my neck. I wish I had never started cracking it, but it almost cracks itself these days. I've got limited turn mobility to the left and am hoping a chiro can help with that (and, you know, not give me a stroke). But if I already crack it, will his cracks do much more good? Thanks everyone.
posted by kookoobirdz to Health & Fitness (14 answers total)
I'm not sure how much more it could be cracked

it's not really about how much more, my (excellent, he treats professional athletes on a regular basis) chiropractor's treatment feels much different than when I crack my own neck.

I don't crack my back but I'm sure it'd feel the same, the movements are just different

give it a try, you'll see for yourself
posted by matteo at 3:11 PM on April 4, 2006

cracking weakens the muscles that hold your bones in place. it helps short term, but long term it aggavates problems. try stretching and yoga instead.
posted by beno at 3:12 PM on April 4, 2006

My back was way out of whack, and going to see the chiropracter 'cured' me. It still hurts a little though, sometimes.

I'm pretty sure chiropractors actually aim for specific vertebrae, to try to get them knocked into place. If you crack your own back then you might not be hitting the right place, or doing anything.

The sound you hear is from fluid bubbles poping, just like when you crack your knuckles.

I suppose in theory you could be doing good, but unless you're getting the right spot it won't help too much.
posted by delmoi at 3:41 PM on April 4, 2006

consider a NUCCA practioner for your neck issues. and yes, they can do things to your skeletal structure that you could never in a million years do by yourself.
posted by macinchik at 3:50 PM on April 4, 2006

Chiropractors don't just "crack" your neck/back - they MANIPULATE your spine. It's completely different. You may want to run a search on Google for "chiropractic manipulation" - there are a ton of really good resources and explanations of what goes on in a chiropractic appointment.

I saw one about five years ago, and she actually "cured" me of my back pain. I see a chiropractor occassionally now for stress-related shoulder/neck pain. I swear by it. Also, don't get sucked in to the "see me three times a week for a month and then we'll reduce the appointments". Chiropractic care is just like any other - if you want to see your chiro once a week, then do it. Once a month, cool. Never again, go for it. You are in charge of your care.
posted by MeetMegan at 4:11 PM on April 4, 2006

I see my chiro once every two weeks. It is way different than cracking my own back and neck. She also adjusts my posture (I sit at a desk all day) and my back and hip alignment. It makes a noticeable difference!
posted by blahtsk at 4:27 PM on April 4, 2006

I think it's like the difference between a hair cut you give yourself in the mirror and one by a professional barber.
posted by Hildago at 4:37 PM on April 4, 2006

Cracking you own back is not really any kind of objective treatment of your spinal alignment.

There are a number of approaches to Chiropractic care. Some focus on the spinal alignment (the back crackers), some use more fascia type manipulation (like deep massage therapy), and some use both.

I'm not sure what the efficacy is of any of it. I do go to a chiropractor/LMP regularly — the massage and movement therapy part seems to do more for me. I go because I have chronic injuries, my insurance pays, and the doctor is a training partner of mine and all around good guy. But over all I am skeptic of straight up Chiropractic care. And I wouldn't recommend doing it yourself like I wouldn't recommend you perform your own surgery.
posted by tkchrist at 4:48 PM on April 4, 2006

MeetMegan has it completely. You're not paying for a professional back-cracker—what are you imagining their course load is like, if that's all you think they do?

"Press down until you hear a pop. Collect $75. Voila!"

They can tell when things are out of alignment and help to bring them back into alignment and further help with other elements.

For the record, I both crack my back/neck and visit a chiropractor, though I abstain from any back cracking just before my visits. There are some amazing ways they can twist you to get things back in alignment, and while I stay away from the subluxation arguments and all of that, I don't care what anyone else says—I can feel my neck when it's off, and an adjustment fixes it.
posted by disillusioned at 5:25 PM on April 4, 2006

I've been to a great chiropractor and a quack chiropractor. The great one took X-rays and used specialized equipment to manipulate vertebrae. The quack just started throwing me around. Guess which one was wildly successful and which one did nothing much of anything.
posted by frogan at 5:34 PM on April 4, 2006

I can't believe that we're this deep into this thread and no-one has mentioned the risks of chiropractic.
posted by Neiltupper at 6:13 PM on April 4, 2006

Probably because the person who asked the question specifically asked that we not get into that debate, neiltupper.
posted by ook at 7:59 PM on April 4, 2006

My chiropractor says (and my experience seems to agree) that if you crack a specific vertebrate too much, that joint will loosen up, allowing the neighboring joints to tighten up. The imbalance between joints may eventually cause problems. The chiropractor will test each vertebrate, and try to balance them out.

That said, I have a specific spot which seems to "need" cracking more than others, so I do. I just try not to overdo it.
posted by mediaddict at 9:11 AM on April 5, 2006

Update: Went to the chiro, got adjusted, and it really wasn't any different than my own cracking. He was able to crack a couple more vertebrae in my neck, which was nice. I'll go a few more times to see if I think that it really does offer some gradual and lasting improvement. Seems unlikely though, given the nature of the cracking.
posted by kookoobirdz at 8:40 AM on April 8, 2006

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