by Dr. Travis Morgan
Q: Is it OK to “pop” or “crack” my knuckles and joints?
A: Even though we may have been told that cracking our knuckles can result in eventual arthritis, recent studies have shown this to be incorrect in regards to the joints in our hands and feet. Attempting to pop your own neck or back, however, may have a different set of effects. The noise you hear when you pop your knuckles and joints is oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen bubbles (also known as gas) releasing from the joint capsule. But have no fear, this is considered a natural process. Our joints are hydrated by movement, a process of pulling hydrating fluids in and pushing waste product out. As the joints become restricted or stuck from bad postures, sleep positions, improper work ergonomics, or bad movement during a workout, gas builds up in the joint. When motion is restored, the gas bubble is released, hence the popping or cracking noise. If you’re feeling the need to constantly pop or crack your knuckles and joints, it might mean you have some mobility issues in those areas. It’s much safer to leave all that noise up to a professional.
Q: Am I going to get injured lifting weights or doing HIIT workouts?
A: I often hear patients say “I heard [blank] is bad for you”. Fill in the blank with whatever program or movement you would like and the answer will always be, “Well, that’s not necessarily true.” In my opinion, all forms of exercise pose their own levels of risk. While injuries may appear to occur more often in HIIT or Crossfit-style programs that does not necessarily mean they’re philosophy is the cause. Bad movement patterns, improper form, lack of rest, too much weight, poor recovery, or inexperienced programming are the culprits for injuries. Listen to your body and work with an experienced coach (or healthcare provider if you are in pain) when you think modifications are necessary, a movement is aggravating you, or if you feel more rest and recovery should be applied.
Q: What’s the most common condition people need attention for and how can I prevent it?
A: Lower back pain is one of the most common conditions we treat. The problem lies mainly in people don’t know how to diagnose an issue and who to turn to for initial help. First, you’ll need to identify whether or not your lower back is in pain or just sore from improper movement or lifting heavy weight. Soreness generally means the area feels tender when touched or a burning feeling when exercising, and a tight, achy feeling at rest. This can linger for up to 2–3 days. Pain, on the other hand, is typically identified as a sharp ache or discomfort. If you’re having constant pain, you should consider a thorough physical exam. Preventing lower back pain starts with a strong core and proper posture. Low-impact cardiovascular exercise—like swimming or a stationary bike—increases blood flow to the spine, which supplies healing nutrients and hydration to the structures in your lower back. Another important routine is to, of course, stretch before any heavy activities, specifically your hamstrings. Simple hamstring stretching exercises can help decrease the pressure on your pelvis and provide relief across your lower back. Make sure you check with your physical therapist, coach, or doctor first on correct modifications if you already have soreness or pain though.
Q: What is laser therapy and how can it help improve my condition?
A: Laser therapy uses wavelengths of red and near-infrared light to stimulate the body’s existing ability to heal. Typically it improves healing time, reduces pain, and increases circulation, meaning a decrease in swelling. Whether treating migraines, tendonitis, bursitis, disc degeneration, arthritis, or simple sprains and strains, the laser can be an incredibly effective tool at reducing pain and drawing water, oxygen, and nutrients to the damaged area. This is going to help the body create an optimal healing environment and ultimately allows patients to get back to their activity faster while reducing the likelihood of reinjury down the road.
Q: If I go see a chiropractor once, do I have to see them for the rest of my life?
A: It’s a common misconception that you have to see your chiropractor forever after your first visit. It’s also misleading to think you will become “addicted” to the adjustments. Chiropractic works to help the body function at an optimal level, which makes the overall practice significant in lifestyle changes. The benefits of chiropractic include faster healing time from injury, improved immune system response, and a reduction in pain. Chiropractic care means the brain is able to communicate properly with the body and the joints are able to function in a normal capacity. It’s true that you may enjoy the feeling of a pain free body that runs more efficiently, but truth be told, the body does not necessarily depend on providers (chiropractors, massage therapists, etc.). It is beneficial, however, to utilize routine care and maintenance. I always compare it to dental work. Much like cleaning your teeth twice a year at a dentist’s office is a common, public practice, taking care of your joints and spine should be no different. Incorporating chiropractic care into your health routine, is certainly not a bad idea.