low back pain and popping

Is It Bad When My Lower Back Is Popping and Cracking?

Lower back pain is a common problem that affects many people, and infact is one of the leading causes of disability globally. A study published in 2020 estimated the global population of people who suffer with Low Back Pain is estimated at 7.5% of the world population. But what about lower back pain and popping sound? If you’ve ever experienced a popping or cracking sound in your lower back, you may be wondering what’s causing it and what you can do about it.

We are going to explore the causes of lower back pain and popping sound, the treatment options available, and discuss when you need to be worried about these popping and cracking sounds. 

Just a Little Loving Disclaimer! 🙂 

This post is for educational and informational purposes only and solely as a self-help tool for your own use. I am not providing medical, psychological, or nutrition therapy advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your own medical practitioner. Always seek the advice of your own medical practitioner and/or mental health provider about your specific health situation. For my full Disclaimer, please go to www.letsmovemindfully.com/disclaimer.

What are Facet Joints?

To understand the causes of lower back pain and popping sound, we need to talk about facet joints. These are small joints located in the back of your spine that connect the vertebrae together. Facet joints help your spine move and provide stability.

These are the joints that allow your spine to bend and twist.  These joints have synovial fluid in them, just like other joints in your body. This fluid lubricates the spinal joints and helps them move smoothly. 

Common Causes of Lower Back Pain and Popping Sound

There are different parts of our anatomy that can pop, crack or snap. Sometimes its ligaments or tendons that are snapping. But most of the time when we are talking about pop or crack we are looking at the joints themselves that are giving the audible crack.  And when we are looking at the spine, it is mostly the facet joints that are the ones we are looking at that are causing the sound.  These cracking noises can be caused by everyday movements.

Another joint that can cause the popping sound can be from your Sacroiliac joint (SI Joint).  This joint does move, however minimally. This joint is formed between your sacrum, which is a triangle shaped bone, that sits between your innominante bones, also known as your pelvic bones. This joint is formed by the sacrum acting as a wedge between these two bones.  

It is common to find pain caused by dysfunction of the sacrum against the innominante bones. Sometimes when the SI joint or the facet joints pop, also known as articulates, it can relieve pain.  However, it is important to know that if you continue to have pain after a popping sound that you seek medical attention.  Mostly these popping sounds are benign, however with on going pain, make sure a trained professional evaluates you. 

low back pain and popping

What Causes the Sound of a Joint Popping?

There is no known definitive cause of joint popping. Here we are talking about the facet joints that are apart of the spine that surrounds the spinal cord. There are a few common theories out there as to what causes the popping sound. One theory involves gas bubbles that can form in the synovial fluid, creating a popping or cracking sound when the joints move.  There is a theory that its carbon dioxide in the joint, and another that it is nitrogen bubbles.

Another theory is that it is simply the synovial fluid moving that is making the sound that of the back cracking.    Its these audible cracks that some people love to make with their spine or other joints, while others dislike when their joints pop.

Does Cracking My Back Lead to Arthritis?

This is a great question and one we really don’t have an answer to yet.  In a letter to the editor of Arthritis and Rheumatism a case report was offered where one subject cracked only the knuckles of one hand for 50 years and after 50 years the hands were identical without having any arthritis in either hand.  This could suggest that this popping does not lead to osteoarthritis over years.  However, this would need to be repeated many times over.  It also does not discuss the lumbar spine.  

However, if there’s degenerative changes or joint problems, the facet joints may not move properly, causing pain and discomfort in the lower back.

Is it the Joint that is Popping or is There Another Source?

There are several causes of lower back pain and back cracks, including:

Muscle strain and soft tissue injuries: Lifting heavy objects, sudden movements, or overuse of the back muscles can lead to muscle strain and soft tissue injuries. These injuries can cause pain, inflammation, and a popping or cracking sound in the lower back.

Herniated disc and nerve root irritation: In your spine you have a disc between each vertebra which acts as a shock absorbers. When the soft center of a spinal disc pushes through a crack in the tougher exterior, it’s called a herniated disc or ruptured disc. This can put pressure on the surrounding nerve roots, causing pain and discomfort in the lower back. Nerve root irritation can most likely also cause a popping or cracking sound in the lower back.

Sacroiliac joint dysfunction: The sacroiliac joint connects the sacrum (the triangular bone at the bottom of the spine) to the pelvis. Dysfunction of this joint can cause lower back pain and a popping or cracking sound.

Degenerative changes in the lumbar spine: As we age, the facet joints in our lumbar spine can degenerate and wear down, causing pain and discomfort. These degenerative changes such as bone spurs can also cause popping or cracking sounds when the joints move.

Diagnosis and Treatment Options

If you’re experiencing lower back pain and popping sound, it’s important to consult medical professionals for an accurate diagnosis. A physical examination and imaging tests (such as an X-ray or MRI) can help determine the cause of your pain.

There are several treatment options available for lower back pain and popping sound, including:

Physical therapy: A physical therapist can develop a treatment plan that includes exercises and stretches to improve range of motion and muscle strength. They may also use heat or ice therapy, electrical stimulation, or massage to help alleviate pain and discomfort.

Pain relief medication: Over-the-counter pain relievers (such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen) can help alleviate pain and inflammation. Make sure you are consulting with a physician for long term use of ibuprofen or other NSAIDs.  These medications can lead to kidney damage and bleeding ulcers in your stomach if you are taking them long term.

Spinal manipulation: An osteopathic physician or chiropractor or other medical professional may perform spinal adjustment to help alleviate pain and improve mobility. This can include techniques such as mobilization, traction, or manipulation.

Prevention and Pain Management

Preventing lower back pain and popping sound starts with proper posture and body mechanics. 

Here are some tips to help prevent low back pain and popping sounds:

  • Improving poor posture and learning how to maintain proper posture when sitting and standing
  • Use ergonomic chairs and equipment to support your back
  • Lift heavy objects with your legs, not your back
  • Regular exercise, such as walking, swimming, or yoga, can help improve muscle strength and flexibility, which can help prevent back pain.

It’s also important to seek medical attention if you’re experiencing chronic pain or discomfort. Ignoring the problem can make it worse and may require more aggressive treatment down the line.

If you do experience lower back pain and popping sound, there are some things you can do to manage the pain at home. These include:

  • Applying a heating pad or ice to the affected area
  • Resting and avoiding activities that aggravate the pain
  • Doing gentle exercises and stretches to improve mobility and strength

It’s important to note that some cracking or popping sounds in the lower back are normal and not a cause for concern. However, if the sound is accompanied by pain, discomfort, or other symptoms, it’s important to seek medical attention.


Lower back pain and popping sound can be a frustrating and uncomfortable condition to deal with, but it’s not uncommon. By understanding the causes and treatment options available, you can take steps to prevent this condition and manage the pain if it does occur.

Remember, if you’re experiencing chronic pain or discomfort, it’s important to seek medical attention. With the help of a medical professional, you can develop a treatment plan that works for you and get back to living a pain-free life.

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