Back cracking is scientifically known as crepitus.
It is regarded as a common occurrence although it differs slightly from one context to another.
So, is back cracking especially during deadlifting normal?
Well, this article answers this and other important questions about deadlift back crack and other related topics.
In essence, cracking on the joint facets may not necessarily cause pain.
Most people claim that they feel better when they back crack especially when lifting or stretching.
Some do this intentionally while others experience it naturally.
In basic terms, back cracking can be felt whenever your spine’s joints are manipulated into or out of their regular positions.
Is back cracking during a deadlift normal?
The answer is absolute, no! Back cracks are harmless occurrences in most cases. However, it is not a normal event when it causes you pain and discomfort during the deadlift. No matter what happens, it is best to keep a positive attitude and to keep moving so your back does not get locked up.
Some people just like to crack their backs while to others it just happens naturally and they feel more relaxed.
For lifters, the cracking noise in the back during deadlifting is commonly thought to occur when a rush of nitrogen gas in the joints pops up as a result of pressure.
Under normal circumstances, the cracking sound should not be heard when you are performing deadlifts.
If your back cracks, it may be because of a number of reasons—
- Wrong technique, causing joint movement
- Gas release
One of the most suspected reasons for back cracking during deadlifting is the use of wrong techniques when doing deadlifts.
Your 405lbs deadlift can wait.
It may not cause pain but you must apprehend that it is not a normal thing for you and everyone else.
The cracking sound is just an alarm to alert you that some are wrong with your back or something wrong has happened to your joints as a result of deadlifts.
In essence, deadlifts are not harmful to your back.
Even if you are experiencing first time lower back deadlift pain.
In fact, the deadlift is one of the best exercises on the planet.
It helps lifters and other athletes to enhance their strengths, endurance and increase their muscle mass.
When doing deadlifts, you might eventually hear a cracking sound then feel some degree of relief.
It may be as a result of releasing pressure piled in your spine.
Now that may be harmless or cause adverse effects thereafter.
That is why the whole situation is regarded as abnormal.
Since some aggressive cases can hurt your spine or nerves, you need to stop and address the issue before it worsens.
As stated above, most back cracking instances may not have adverse effects on your back in general unless it hurts.
But because there is a possibility of other emerging severe problems, you do not have to overlook the occurrence.
The result may be torn muscles, tendons, ligaments, or broken backbones or joints.
Ultimately, deadlift back crack is mostly caused by wrong deadlift techniques.
Spinal manipulation is hugely associated with strokes.
Therefore, you should avoid taking chances with your health; back cracking is not a normal occurrence during and even after deadlifting.
What else is also not normal?
Should you continue to deadlift after your back cracked?
If you are practicing good deadlifting technique and nothing is heard or felt from your back, then you can carry on with deadlifting with caution. If you hear or feel a back crack that is followed by swelling or pain of any kind, stop deadlifting immediately.
Most people keep asking if it is right to continue to deadlift after a back crack instance.
With that, it surely depends on what follows after the back crack.
A back crack that is serious will immediately cause some mild or severe pain in the affected area.
As early mentioned, the crack sound can be produced as an alarm for you to perform deadlifts using the right techniques.
At times, it can be quite relieving to feel your back crack while you deadlift.
But if the cracking persists it may cause severe damages to your back, muscles, tendons, ligaments, spinal nerves, and joints in general.
In some cases, you may feel that your spine is hurt due to cracking and jerking.
That is essentially not normal as well; make sure you put the exercise on a halt.
Generally, you should stop deadlifting when back cracking gets paired with a troubling or painful sensation on your back.
In summary, here are some of the main instances that will signal you to halt the exercise after a back crack.
- Stinging or throbbing pain may be an indication that you have a cracked joint is cracked or torn or overstretched nerves.
- Consistent cracking is a strong alarm because your joint might have dysfunction or you may have a damaged ligament or cartilage.
- Locking joint - If your spinal joints feel like sticking or locking while lifting, you need to stop immediately. Your joint structures could be deteriorating slowly.
- Recent injury – if you had an injury recently and hear or feel a back joint cracking, stop deadlifting immediately and seek medical attention.
Perhaps you may want to use another deadlift alternative since you are deadlifting every week.
It could be time to analyze if the trap bar deadlift carryover to your main deadlift variation has any impact right now.
What happens when your back cracks?
When your back cracks while deadlifting, there are a couple of things that follow.
Also, there are a number of things that cause the cracking of your back during deadlifts.
In simple terms, the synovial fluid that presents in the joints acts as the lubricant.
That fluid has gases like
- carbon (ii) dioxide.
Therefore, when you feel or hear a pop sound from the back, you might have stretched the joint capsules.
Very similar to an overhead press neck pop.
If the pressure increases as you deadlift then the gases will form bubbles that burst out producing the sound.
After the cracking, it may alleviate some pain or it may be harmless after all.
1. What happens when your back cracks during the deadlift and it is painful?
As discussed herein, the pain felt after the cracking may be an indication that you have torn or overstretched muscles, ligaments, tendons, and even joints.
Therefore, any popping or snapping that is associated with pain is dangerous.
Usually, what happens is the tearing of muscles and other associated structures forming the back.
In the past, many lifters will tell you to stop deadlifting and go home and rest.
When you do this, you are unable to go to the gym, will develop stiff back tightness the next day, and lose some gains in the following weeks.
You would also feel regular hamstring back soreness from deadlifts even if you are doing them correctly.
There are more modern techniques in order to further speed up recovery.
First, recognize that your back will be tight immediately after your back cracks.
This is okay.
Follow the subsequent steps to a speedy recovery:
- 1. Do not freak out
A positive mentality is key.
You can get upset about “injuring” your back from doing deadlifts. Sure, cool.
You need to train yourself to think positively and not worry so much about your back.
What has happened already did; you cannot uncrack your back. So, the best thing to do is to stay in a good mood and read step two.
- 2. Start moving
The longer to stay immobile, the more your back will tighten up.
This is not what you want.
Start moving around.
Walk as much as you can with perfect posture.
Do air squats and air deadlifts for 20+ reps.
Keep moving your back and breathing.
You will find that the more you move, the better you will feel.
It is almost a guarantee that you will feel incredibly stiff the next morning.
Do not worry and just keep moving.
2. What happens when your back cracks during the deadlift and it is not painful?
A high pitched snap or pop that is not followed with pain or any sort of swelling is usually harmless.
What happens when a painless back crack is felt is that the back joints naturally releases pressure in the joint cavities.
That is when the gases from synovial fluid pop and it is nothing that serious unless you persist with the pressure.
Also, when your back muscles tightness while you deadlift, you will feel a crack or pop sound from your back.
The anatomy of the back
The back is a complex part of the body with complex structures.
Whether you are an upcoming or experienced lifter, you need to understand how your back is structured and how it operates whenever you are doing deadlifts, rack pulls or any other exercise.
Your back especially the lumbar bears much of your body’s weight while you are walking, running, sitting, lifting and doing other activities.
The spine helps to protect your spinal cord.
The spinal cord contains very vital bundles of nerves that transmit all messages to and from your brain to every other part of your body.
The spine is made of vertebrae which is a series of interlocking bones that offer support to almost all of your upper body weight.
A normal person has an average of about 33 vertebrae.
However, as one grows to adulthood the lower bones fuse together to reduce the number to 24 vertebrae.
The back consists of the cervical spine (neck bones), thoracic spine (shoulder part), lumbar spine (the lower back), sacrum (joins the lumber with your pelvis), and the coccyx (tailbone).
The vertebrae system is connected with bones that join back to back at joints.
It is usually in the joints where the back cracking happens.
Finally, the vertebrae are consolidated together by a large number of ligaments, muscles, and tendons.
Why does your back crack?
After knowing how your back is basically structured; it is logical to ask yourself, why does the back crack while deadlifting or when performing other activities?
There are very many reasons why the back produces the creaking or popping sound in general.
One of the main reasons why the back cracks, while you maneuver, is the release of gases that are under pressure in the joints.
It is said that gases like nitrogen and carbon dioxide get compressed between two articulating bones and form bubbles which burst when the pressure becomes excessive.
When lifting weights in the gym, the joints in your back are pulled apart and the pressure decreases within the synovial fluid.
The reduction in pressure at the joint surfaces leads to the formation of gaseous bubbles around the cavity.
When more pressure is applied they burst to produce the popping or cracking sound.
Certainly, there are several other debatable analogies behind the production of the popping sound during exercises.
But gas bubble formation in the joint cavity or cavitation is the most common reason why you hear or feel the cracking or popping sound in your back.
Also, the movements made between the tendons, ligaments, and joints cause a similar snap sound.
These movements usually occur when ligaments, tendons, or joints move out of their original positions and rapidly return back.
Another cause can be a condition known as arthritis.
While you deadlift in the gym you may feel frequent crack sounds from your back.
That may be the effect of arthritis.
However, you need to see a doctor before making any conclusion.
Is deadlifting bad for your back?
Deadlifts (when used the wrong way) are bad for your back. Here are some of the wrong ways to use deadlifts—
- Not changing your exercise variation
- Having poor form
- Having pre-existing weaknesses that creates improper motor patterns
Deadlifts are a great multi-joint movement that builds muscle and strength.
It creates spine compression, which is not a bad thing since we need to strengthen our bodies for external stimulus.
But we also need to have exercises that create spinal traction.
So, if you are just doing deadlifts with no other accessories to create more spinal traction, your strength training journey may end sooner than you want.
Here are some spinal traction exercises that you must include after every deadlift workout:
- Reverse hypers
- 45 degree back extensions
The back is a complex structure that includes various bones and muscles that are supported by cartilages, tendons, and ligaments.
All these structures are put into action by a complex network of nerves and blood vessels.
Therefore, when a deadlift back crack occurs it raises some anxiety.
Some overlook it while others keep wondering whether it is normal or not normal.
However, you know your body best and it is best to keep moving no matter what happens to your back.
Feeling sorry for yourself and sitting down for a long time to rest your back are poor ways to recover from any back injury.
Is deadlifting worth the risk?
The pros of deadlifting far outweigh the cons if you can manage your program intelligently.
As mentioned before, you need to avoid making these mistakes:
- Ego lifting
- Not changing your exercise variation
- Not learning poor form
- Not correcting pre-existing weaknesses that create improper motor patterns
Deadlifts should not cause you any sharp, acute pain.
Deadlifts are just one of many compound movements that you can utilize to:
- Save time
- Be efficient in the gym
- Assess your weaknesses
- Build strength
- Develop a great physique
Only you can be the judge on whether or not you want to include this exercise into your program...