"Hey, can you walk on my back?" It's a question you've definitely either asked or been asked before. Suffering back pain can leave you turning to this wild tactic, or other home remedies, in an attempt to feel 100% again. But, are these home remedies even useful, or can they cause more pain down the road?
Read on to debunk some of the most common back pain home remedies, and discover where these myths started.
1. Daily Cracking Doesn't Hurt You
Throughout the course of the day, routine movements cause the bones to be stretched apart. While this happens, the space between the synovial joints - the points where two of your mobile bones come together - begins to widen. Air bubbles begin to form in the synovial fluid found within the cavity of the joint once these spaces widen. As a result, when you forcefully stretch your bones apart as you "crack" them, these bubbles burst to release nitrogen and dioxide - hence, creating a "cracking" noise.
In essence, you're not actually "cracking" anything. You're simply popping the bubbles that have formed in the synovial joints contained in frequently cracked areas like the neck vertebrae, fingers, and knees. However, the underlying issue behind cracking is that our joints are not meant to be repeatedly stretched. When we do frequently stretch to crack them, they gradually become less stable. This can lead to an array of pains, including dislocated fingers, chronic back pain, and even sciatica. That satisfying cracking sound doesn't seem as worth it anymore, does it?
2. Using a Chair to Crack Your Back
If you've ever visited a chiropractor, you'll know that he or she will most likely crack your neck and back while performing an alignment. In order to do this, the chiropractor has completed extensive education, and has a thorough knowledge of what the spine needs to perform at its best. That being said, a chiropractor will practice a light to moderate amount of cracking in order to relieve stress on your joints without repeatedly stretching them.
Following an uptick in chiropractic care, many individuals have taken it upon themselves to crack their own back using a chair. The idea behind the practice is simple: by either lowering the spine slowly over the back of the chair or twisting the body quickly around the back of the chair will force the back to crack. However, when you crack your back, you're forcing your vertebrae and joints out of their normal range of mobility.
Solo, you cannot crack all of the bones in your spine the way a qualified chiropractor can. This means you're most likely only stretching joints above or below the point in which you're twisting from the chair, placing an unnecessary amount of stress on those joints. Additionally, you're stretching your muscles unnaturally, which will most likely result in increased tension.
3. Walking on Someone Else's Back
Walking on someone else's back actually dates back to the ancient practice of Chavutti Thirumal. Roughly translated, the word "Chavutti" means foot or leg, and the word "Thirumal" means massage. Stemming from the Kerala region of India, this process was popular among practitioners of martial arts and classical dance. Soon the back walking process spread to areas of Japan, in which the element of pressure points was incorporated. This was known as Ashiatsu, or foot pressure. In the Japanese language "ashi" translates to foot, and "atsu" translates to "pressure."
This phenomenon spread to the West, and even in modern days many individuals turn to back walking as a means to reduce back pain. Unfortunately, the back walking process can be a vicious cycle of pain.
The excess movement of your joints when someone walks on your back forces your muscles to work overtime to keep them stable. Similar to attempting to crack your own back with a chair, your muscles will ultimately feel tighter following this event, and you can be tricked into thinking you need someone to walk on your back again to crack it. Attempting to rid yourself of tension this way will force your muscles to become even more tense, and will lead to an extreme amount of stress on your joints that can be detrimental to spinal health.
4. Hanging Upside Down
Of all these home remedies, hanging upside-down is by far the oldest trick in the book. Dating back to 3000 BC, hanging upside-down - known as inversion therapy - has been utilized to stretch the back and relieve lower back pain. In fact, Hippocrates, one of the oldest figures in medicine, practiced suspending his patients upside-down using ropes and pulleys to relieve abdominal pressure, boost circulation and correct poor posture.
Luckily for us, modern medicine eliminated the need for the ropes. Instead, many people utilize inversion tables or pull-up bars to suspend themselves upside-down. The theory behind inversion therapy is that the force of gravity incurred on the body when it's stretched upside-down will draw apart adjacent vertebrae that are placing pressure on the nervous system.
While it has not been scientifically proven that this therapy is a long-term effective treatment, this has not stopped thousands from trying it on their own. However, putting the body in this position could be risky for anyone with high blood pressure, heart disease or glaucoma. Likewise, utilizing this method too often can throw the entire balance of your spinal system out of whack.
Are you looking for pain relief? Please, do yourself a favor and don't attempt it alone. Whereas simple stretches and moderate exercise can be helpful, in the case of back or neck pain, attempting to contort the spine without the aid of a professional is dangerous and can have lasting side effects.
Chiropractic care is gentle and effective. Leave the home remedies where they belong - in the past - and contact a ChiroCare professional today to help alleviate your back pain.