Are my discs slipping?
May 22, 2008 9:39 PM   Subscribe

Sometimes when I stretch my back, it kind of pops and hurts sharply, what's up with that?

Im 6'5, 175, and not in the best shape at present. I have a habit of stretching my back with arms over the head, and either turning around to left or right or leaning sideways. Sometimes when I stretch and turn, my spine (kind of mid back area, I think always the same place, but maybe not) kind of pops and I feel it slip a bit, followed by a sharp stabbing pain. Is this some sort of disc slippage? What causes it, bad posture, bad stretching motions? And is this something that would stop if I worked out those back muscles more?
posted by T.D. Strange to Health & Fitness (3 answers total)
I think that area pops easily (and loudly) on most backs (everyone I knew growing up could do it...and did it often while stretching), so I wouldn't worry too much. If you're getting a sharp, stabbing pain, though, you probably ought to cool it on the popping. You'd probably benefit a lot from some controlled stretching. I hate really hard, but this series of stretches appears to be pretty solid. If you're still having back pain, you might want to go to a doctor. Back problems can escalate pretty quickly and if you really injure yourself, you'll never be 100%. You don't want to mess with backs.
posted by phunniemee at 10:49 PM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

Muscles usually work in pairs. So, for example, you have a bicep on one side of the arm that controls flexing and a tricep on the other side that controls extension. Or for the leg, you've got the quadriceps in the front and the hamstrings in the back.

Your back muscles are also paired with a muscle group. That group? The lovely 'ol abdominal muscles. And what's sandwiched in between, acting as a rope in this tug-o-war? Your spinal column. So if you tend to live the kind of life that doesn't require you to use your abs much all day--like most office jobs--you'll quickly find your abs start to lose the tug-o-war with your back muscles. Why? Because you're human: theoretically, at least, you're at least upright all day. As your abs get weaker and your back gets stronger just through walking around, your spinal column is under more unbalanced stress and is more susceptible to injury.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:05 AM on May 23, 2008

Seems to me that if you're feeling stabbing pain in conjunction with popping bones in your back, it's likely to be nerves getting pinched. I say this as someone with a messed up disc and a pinched nerve. When you see diagrams of the spinal column, you see nerves branching out all through the spaces between the vertebrae. With normal padding, placement, and movement, everything is fine. If one or more of those is off, nerves can get pinched, either acutely or chronically. I've also had messed up muscles in my back at times, which can also be an intensely sharp pain, but those were never associated with popping bones. See your ortho/chiro. It's probably not any thing that needs urgent care, but it could be something that leads to more chronic problems down the line. I wish I had been more proactive in taking care of my spine.
posted by Askr at 7:55 AM on May 23, 2008

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