Lower Back Pain and Popping Sound

Sometimes an unexpected cracking noise that occurs in our backs can be unnerving, especially if it is accompanied by pain. We know how essential our backs are for daily living.

Are you currently experiencing a grinding or cracking sensation? Are you curious about what it could be? If so, you have come to the right place.

At Virgin Islands Neurology, we specialize in assisting those with lower back pain. If you are consistently hearing popping sounds that are accompanied by pain, schedule an appointment with one of our experts today! We are conveniently located in the U.S. Virgin Islands and look forward to assisting you.

A woman with lower back pain and a popping sound.

Back Pain and Cracking

Generally, when your back cracks, there is no pain associated with it, and it should not be a cause for concern. Back cracking is a common occurrence that slightly differs for everyone but should not hurt. There’s even a technical term for when you “crack” your back. It’s called crepitus.

Types of Spinal Crepitus

There are two types of spinal crepitus, and they are as follows:

  1. Crepitus by cavitation — This is an audible pop or crack that can occur during normal movement or when your spine has reached its range of motion limit.
  2. Arthritic crepitus — This is a snapping noise, click, or coarse grinding sensation that occurs when you move your spine, which is typically caused due to wear and tear.
Doctor at Virgin Islands Neurology explaining spinal crepitus to a patient.

What Happens When My Back Cracks or Pops?

Naturally, you may be wondering what exactly happens when my back cracks or pops. One reason back cracking can occur is that your spine’s facet joints are stretched or manipulated out of or into their normal position.

Your facet joints allow your spine to bend and twist but keep your back within its limits. Your nerve roots that go from the spinal cord to your arms, legs, and other parts of your body pass through these joints.

A facet joint can be manipulated out of place when you twist your lower back (lumbar spine) or neck. When your facet joints move like this, it allows the synovial fluid inside of them to move around, releasing pressure and producing an audible cracking sound along with a grinding sensation.

Additionally, some experts believe that gases such as nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and oxygen build up between your joints over time, and when you stretch or move in specific ways, the gas is released.

Additional Reasons Why You May Hear a Popping Noise in Your Back

A popping or cracking sound may also occur when one of your vertebral muscles spasms or if you have adhesion in your connective tissue. You may also hear a cracking sound if one of your discs moves within your facet joint.

Causes of Back Pain Associated With Cracking

If you feel significant pain when your back cracks, this may signify a more serious condition. Back pain associated with cracking can be caused by deterioration, soft tissue damage, or arthritis, specifically osteoarthritis. Symptoms of spinal osteoarthritis include joint pain and crepitus.

When the cartilage in your facet joints wears away, it can cause bone-on-bone rubbing, resulting in pain and swelling.

What Kind of Impact Does Cracking Have On My Back and Spine?

While the exact mechanics of facet joint cracking and the possible effects it may have are not fully understood, the effects will likely vary depending on the overall muscle and joint function of each individual. Generally speaking, cracking your back does not cause pain or require medical attention.

Additionally, spinal manipulation can relieve back and neck pain. You can perform this manipulation yourself or have it done professionally by an expert.

When Should I Seek Medical Attention?

You should seek medical attention if your back cracking is coupled with pain. This may indicate a degenerative or structural problem with your joint.

Below you will find specific signs that occur with facet joint cracking that may warrant medical attention.

In general, cracking your back should not cause pain. However, if you have been experiencing pain coupled with a popping sound, knowing why it is happening can put your mind at ease.

Our medical experts at Virgin Islands Neurology can help! We are conveniently located in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Schedule an appointment today to receive an accurate diagnosis and the relief you deserve.