When you “crack” your back, you’re adjusting, mobilizing, or manipulating, your spine. Overall, it should be fine for you to do this to your back on your own.
These adjustments don’t actually require those telltale cracking and popping sounds to be effective, but we know they offer that momentary feeling of relief. Just remember not to overdo it or force anything.
Here are 10 moves and stretches to help you crack your back, plus a video that demonstrates some of those moves in more detail.
Gentle stretches and movements like the ones described here to adjust your back can also warm up your body and muscles, loosening tight areas.
First, we start with two ways to use a chair on your back.
- 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.
You can experiment using different heights by sliding your body up and down slightly.
You’ll feel this stretch in your upper and middle back.
- Sit in a chair and reach your right arm across your body to hold the left side of the chair. Your right hand should be on the seat of the chair or on 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 go, keeping your hips, legs, and feet facing forward.
- Repeat these moves on the opposite side to twist to the right.
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.
You’ll feel this stretch along your spine where you are applying pressure.
For a variation on this stretch try the next exercise.
- 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 upwards and then arch backwards, using your hands to apply gentle pressure to your back.
- Hold this position for 10 to 20 seconds, and remember to breathe.
- If your flexibility allows, you can move your hands further up your spine and do the stretch at different levels.
You may also feel the stretch in your upper spine or between your shoulder blades.
- From a standing position, interlace your fingers behind your head.
- Slowly lengthen your spine upwards 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.
- 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.
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 is up.
- 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 place 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.
The twist should start at your lower back. You’ll feel this stretch all along your spine.
“Supine” is another way to say that 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.
You’ll feel this massage and stretch all along your spine and might get a few adjustments.
- 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 and turn your head to the left.
- As you hold that extended position, twist your lower body to the right. Imagine that you are trying to touch the ground with your left shoulder and your left knee at the same time. You don’t need to actually do this — your left shoulder will most likely be raised up off the floor, and your knee may not reach the floor by itself either.
- 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 your left knee.
- Draw your left knee higher up toward your chest or straighten your leg to deepen the stretch.
- Repeat on the opposite side.
You’ll feel this stretch in your lower back.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and extend your arms straight up 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 two to three times.
You’ll feel this stretch along your upper back.
These simple stretches 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 amount of 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 you to loosen up your joints.
It may be safe to adjust your own back as long as you do so carefully and with caution. But, some people believe it should be done by professionals because they are specifically trained in how to adjust backs safely.
Adjusting your back incorrectly or too often could exacerbate or cause pain, muscle strain, or injuries. It could also lead to hypermobility, which is where you stretch your spine and back muscles so much that they lose elasticity and can come out of alignment.
If you have back pain, swelling, or some type of injury, you shouldn’t crack your own back. This is especially important if you have or suspect that you have any type of disc issue. Wait until you heal completely or seek the support of a physical therapist, chiropractor, or osteopath.
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 into any position. These stretches shouldn’t cause you discomfort, pain, or numbness.
Experiment to find which stretches work the best for you, since it’s possible that not all of these stretches will suit your needs.
If you experience severe pain or if your symptoms become worse, discontinue the practice and see a physical therapist, chiropractor, or osteopath.