Try these 10 moves to help you crack your back. You won’t even need equipment for most of them. Also, view a video demonstrating some of the moves in greater detail.
When you “crack” your back, you’re adjusting, mobilizing, or manipulating your spine.
Gentle stretches and twists like the ones described here to adjust your back can also warm up your body and muscles, loosening tight areas.
Some people believe these adjustments should only be done by professionals who are trained in how to adjust backs safely.
However, it may be safe to adjust or crack your own back if you do so carefully and with caution.
Just remember not to overdo it or force anything. These adjustments don’t actually require those telltale cracking and popping sounds to be effective, but we know they offer a momentary feeling of relief.
- Sit in a chair with a solid back that allows your shoulder blades to fit over the top.
- You can interlace your fingers behind your head or extend your arms up over your head.
- Lean back and relax.
- Continue leaning back over the top edge of the chair until your back cracks or you feel a good stretch.
You can experiment with different heights by sliding your body up and down slightly.
Where you’ll feel it: You’ll feel this stretch in your upper and middle back.
- Sit in a chair and reach your right arm across your body toward the left side of the chair. Your right hand should be on the chair’s seat or the outside of your left leg.
- Lift your left arm behind you to hook it over the back of the chair.
- Carefully twist your upper body to the left as far as you can, keeping your hips, legs, and feet facing forward.
- Repeat these moves on the opposite side by twisting to the right.
Where you’ll feel it: Your twist should start at the base of your spine. You’ll feel this stretch in your lower and middle back.
- While standing, make a fist with one hand and wrap your opposite hand around it at the base of your spine.
- Push up on the spine with your hands at a slight upward angle.
- Lean back, using the pressure of your hands to crack your back.
- Move your hands up your spine and do the same stretch at different levels.
Where you’ll feel it: You’ll feel this stretch along the part of your spine where you’re applying pressure. For a variation on this stretch, try the next exercise, the standing lumbar extension.
- From a standing position, place your palms along your back or at the top of your butt, with your fingers pointing down and your pinky fingers on either side of your spine.
- Lift and extend your spine upward and then arch backward, using your hands to apply gentle pressure to your back.
- Hold this position for 10 to 20 seconds. Remember to breathe.
- If your flexibility allows, you can move your hands further up your spine and do the stretch at different levels.
Where you’ll feel it: You may feel this stretch along your upper spine or between your shoulder blades.
- From a standing position, interlace your fingers behind your head.
- Slowly lengthen your spine upward and arch backward, pressing your head into your hands.
- Create resistance by pressing your hands into your head.
- Remain in this position for 10 to 20 seconds. Remember to breathe.
Where you’ll feel it: You may feel this stretch in your upper back.
- While standing, extend your arms out in front of you.
- Slowly turn your upper body to the right, keeping your hips and feet facing forward.
- Return to center, and then twist to the left.
- Continue this movement a few times or until you hear your back crack or your back feels looser.
You can use the momentum of your arms to help guide the movement.
Where you’ll feel it: You’ll feel this stretch in your lower spine.
- Sit on the floor with your left leg extended in front of you and your right leg bent so your knee points upward.
- Cross your right leg over the left by planting your right foot outside of your left knee.
- Keep your spine lengthened and straight.
- Place your right hand on the ground behind your hips and your left elbow outside of your right knee, turning to look over your right shoulder.
- Press your arm and knee into each other to deepen the stretch.
Where you’ll feel it: Your twist should start at your lower back. You’ll feel this stretch all along your spine.
“Supine” is another way to say you’re lying on your back.
- While lying on your back with bent knees, place a foam roller horizontally under your shoulders.
- Interlace your fingers at the back of your head, or extend them alongside your body.
- Use your heels as momentum to roll your body up and down over the foam roller, pressing it into your spine.
- You can roll all the way up to your neck and lower back, or focus on your middle back.
- If it’s comfortable, you can arch your spine slightly.
- Roll 10 times in each direction.
Where you’ll feel it: You’ll feel this massage and stretch all along your spine.
- Lie on your back with your right leg straightened and your left leg bent.
- Extend your left arm out to the side and away from your body. Turn your head to the left.
- As you hold that extended position, twist your lower body to the right. Imagine you’re trying to touch the ground with your left shoulder and left knee simultaneously. You do not need to actually do this — your left shoulder will most likely be raised off the floor, and your knee may not reach the floor by itself.
- You can place a pillow under your left shoulder if it doesn’t reach all the way down.
- Breathe deeply as you use your right hand to press down on your left knee.
- Draw your left knee higher toward your chest or straighten your leg to deepen the stretch.
- Repeat on the opposite side.
Where you’ll feel it: You’ll feel this stretch in your lower back.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent, and extend your arms straight toward the ceiling.
- Cross your arms over your chest, reaching around yourself as if to take hold of opposite shoulder blades.
- Sit up slightly, and then move back down to the floor.
- Do this 2 or 3 times.
Where you’ll feel it: You’ll feel this stretch along your upper back.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you try these simple stretches:
- These moves can be done as part of a longer stretching routine or on their own throughout the day.
- Always move carefully in and out of each exercise without making sudden or sharp movements. You may want to take a few moments to relax before and after each stretch.
- Be gentle and gradually increase the pressure or intensity used for these stretches.
- Usually, each stretch will produce only one adjustment instead of repetitive ones. Even if you don’t get an adjustment from these stretches, they should still feel good and help loosen up your joints.
If you have back pain, swelling, or some type of injury, you should not crack your own back.
This is especially important if you have or suspect you have any type of disc issue. Wait until you heal completely or seek the support of one of these healthcare professionals:
- medical doctor, such as a primary care physician
- physical therapist
Adjusting your back incorrectly or too often could cause or worsen pain, muscle strain, or injuries.
It’s important to listen to and know your body when adjusting your own back. Be gentle and refrain from forcing your body to perform movements or go into any position.
These stretches shouldn’t cause any of the following sensations:
Since not all of these stretches may suit your needs, experiment to find which ones work best.
If you experience severe pain or your symptoms worsen, discontinue the practice and see a medical doctor, a physical therapist, a chiropractor, or an osteopath.