Patient: I lifted something that was about 175 pounds and carried it through my house, a day after that i started to notice anytime i straighten my back it cracks like 3 times right in the center of my back. I have no idea what this is but its kinda painful for a second or two then it stops, but it cracks like that each time i straighten my back. Any ideas?
Doctor: Thank you for your question. 175 pounds is indeed a large amount of weight to be lifting and can have an affect on one’s spine. What could have happened in this instance is that this episode of heavy lifting would have put a physical strain on the thoracic spinal vertebrae, and surrounding muscles and ligaments.What is a great sign here is that your the pain you are experiencing is transient, only occurring during the brief popping/cracking sounds that are made when straightening your back. Constant pain, decreased range of motion, and sharp, shooting pain down the back or up towards the neck would be indicative of a more severe injury. Since you are not experiencing this, it is a great sign that you have not sustained any lasting injury.Now, we will attempt to explain this cracking sound and transient pain. In articular joints such as the joints of the spinal vertebrae, elbows, and knees, there is a semi-viscous clear fluid called synovial fluid. This fluid cushions and protects the joints as they move. When increased pressure is placed on articular joints, such as in heavy lifting, this can cause a sudden shift of synovial fluid within the joint, resulting in a popping/cracking sound. The pain that follows is simply due to the activation of pain receptors within the joint capsule and surrounding areas, which causes the brain to sense pain – in your case, the middle of the back. This pain can also be augmented by the rapid re-positioning or movement of your vertebral ligaments as they realign along the spinal column after the ‘crack/pop’ occurs.Rest assured this is a normal phenomenon, and the heavy lifting that you have conducted may have put a little too much strain on the mid back. As a result, we recommend that you refrain from heavy lifting for about two weeks to allow your spinal column to adequately recover. In the future, please refrain from extreme heavy lifting. If you must do so, please lift from bent knees, and wear a back supporting brace or belt to protect the lumbar spin.Should you notice any severe pain developing in your back, or decreased range of motion, we recommend that you follow up with your doctor to be examined. If this does not occur, rest should adequately treat your back and proper safety precautions in the future will prevent this from recurring.Thank you for consulting AskTheDoctor.com. We hope we have helped you.