Are You A Back Cracker? These 8 Feel-Good Moves Actually Hurt Your Body
Hurts so good? More like hurts so bad. Here are some simple habits—like cracking your back—you should avoid.
Instant gratification isn’t worth it for these moves
In the moment, cracking your back, eating ice, and other everyday habits might feel good—but experts warn they could do more harm than you realize. Read on for the other moves you should give up ASAP.
Chewing on ice, or anything really firm, like hard candies, croutons, and even pen caps can cause your teeth to crack. “Of course chewing on ice can cause your teeth to break,” says Steven F. Schwartz, a New York City-based dentist. “It puts extra stress on your teeth, just like clenching and grinding your teeth, and that stress causes teeth to crack.” If you’re eating hard foods (think apples, carrots, nuts, and certain breads), make sure to chew slowly, and try not to chomp down too hard. People who feel the need to chew on ice are often iron deficient, so make sure to discuss this with your doctor.
Who knew that calling up a friend and complaining about your boss could be hurting you? While venting may make you feel better at the time, it’s only a temporary fix that can actually cause you more stress in the long run. “Spouting off is damaging to the body’s systems, raising blood pressure and releasing the stress hormone cortisol into the blood stream,” says Joan Pagano, author of Strength Training Exercises for Women. “Cortisol prepares the body for fight or flight, but if neither action is appropriate, it simply causes more fat to be deposited in the belly, contributing to high cholesterol levels and heart disease.” Instead of complaining, Pagano advises releasing the tension through mindful breathing exercises like these.
“Stand up straight” is undoubtedly a phrase you’ve heard before, and for good reason. Not only does slouching make you look bad, but it’s actually bad for you. “Slouching may feel comfortable in the moment but poor posture can strain your joints and lead to neck and shoulder tension, headaches, sciatica, and hip and knee pain,” says Pagano. “Slouching also puts more pressure on your spinal disks,” adds David Hanscom, MD, an orthopedic spine surgeon and best-selling author of Back in Control: A Spine Surgeon’s Roadmap Out of Chronic Pain. Try to get in the habit of standing or sitting up straight with your shoulder blades rolled down toward your back pockets. Follow these easy tricks to nix slouching for good.
Cracking your joints
There’s no clear consensus on whether cracking joints is good or bad (here’s the truth about whether cracking knuckles causes arthritis) but most experts agree that doing excessive or ballistic moves to crack your joints is a major no-no. While cracking your back or finger is essentially just releasing gas in the joints, it can wear out your ligaments, tendons, muscles, and other soft tissues over time. “If you’re cracking your back to relieve tension, gentle stretches will help. After a few minutes in a hot shower, flex forward and extend backward, and bend from side to side,” Pagano recommends. (Learn more about the risks of ballistic stretching for your body.)
Alternating scalding hot and freezing cold food and drinks
That extra hot venti coffee is wreaking havoc on your teeth, as is your bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream. Actually, anything you eat or drink that’s pipping hot or freezing cold may cause your teeth to crack. “The structure of a tooth is similar to that of a porcelain plate. The fine china plate will develop crack marks if you wash it with really hot or cold water and this is exactly what happens to your teeth when you thermal cycle.” says Dr. Schwartz. It’s especially problematic with fillings, which may expand and contract slightly with the different temperature extremes. This doesn’t mean you have to give up your coffee or ice cream, just be careful you’re not switching back and forth between hot and cold items too quickly. Check out these other things your dentist wishes you knew.
Popping your zits
If a giant pimple blooms on your face, popping it incorrectly, as most of us do, can cause even more inflammation. “You can actually push the bacteria back into the pore, creating an infection under the skin,” says Los Angeles-based celebrity licensed medical esthetician Melissa Aardema. “Blackheads are okay sometimes to squeeze, but not pimples or pustules.” If you give into temptation and pick at your skin, make sure that you’ve washed your face and hands first, and if possible, put a hot compress on the zit before and after popping. Here’s how your dermatologist would treat a pimple.
Washing your face too often
When it comes to washing your face, more is not better. “Washing too much dries out your skin and disrupts the natural pH balance,” Aardema says. Everyone’s skin is different, but most people would benefit from face-washing twice daily—in the a.m. and p.m., recommends Aardema. And always, always, always follow with a serum or moisturizer. (And if you’re wondering why you only have zits on your chin, be sure to check out what your breakout is telling you.)
Pushing through the pain when working out
No pain, no gain? Not exactly. “Your brain is programmed by pain impulses, so if you keep firing those impulses to the brain, then you’re actually sort of exacerbating the problem,” says Dr. Hanscom. “We want people to exercise to fatigue, but not to the point of pain.” Pain and soreness are different. If you’re in pain while working out, that’s your brain warning that you should stop, but you can push through soreness. (Here are 12 times you should absolutely skip working out.)
- Steven F. Schwartz, a New York City-based dentist
- Joan Pagano, author of Strength Training Exercises for Women
- David Hanscom, MD, an orthopedic spine surgeon and best-selling author of Back in Control: A Spine Surgeon's Roadmap Out of Chronic Pain
- Melissa Aardema, a Los Angeles-based celebrity licensed medical esthetician