Is a popping sound in my back when working out related to an injury?

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While doing a strength evaluation I was squatting 235 pounds when I heard a loud “pop” in the middle of my back. As I came out of the squat it seemed to knock the wind out of me and I felt significant discomfort. While assessing the situation, I had slight pain with back extensions, but did not feel any more pain after that even while practicing some yoga. My doctor said my back popping was likely due to pressure build-up in my spine, took an X-ray and told me to contact him if I continued to have pain after a week and he would prescribe physical therapy. It’s now been five days and I have some lingering pain. Should I be worried? I’m in my early twenties and would like to have a healthy spine throughout my life.

Disclaimer: Please note, this reply is for informational purposes only. It’s not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, physical therapist, or other qualified health provider with a medical condition.

Things to Know

  • A “popping” sound in the back can be normal and is not always indicative of an injury.
  • Symptoms from strained tissue will typically resolve with light activity.
  • If symptoms persist, treatment by a Physical Therapist can help to speed recovery.

Thank you for your question about back popping. Without doing an examination of your back we are unable to provide specific information regarding your symptoms. However, we can give general recommendations regarding mid-back discomfort in the scenario described.

A “popping” sound in the middle back can be normal and is not always indicative of an injury. 

Often sounds can occur as joints move and/or as other soft tissue structures move past each other or over a joint. If the x-ray taken during the doctor visit was clear and no symptoms such as weakness, numbness/tingling or loss of sensation are present, there is little reason for worry. 

In general, continuing to participate in pain-free light activity including walking, cycling, and stretching can help facilitate recovery from a mild injury. 

If a tissue has been strained, in many cases, the symptoms will resolve with light activity alone. In other cases, if symptoms persist, treatment by a physical therapist can help to speed recovery. 

Direct access means you can see a physical therapist without a referral from a doctor or other medical provider. 

If symptoms persist, we suggest getting an evaluation by a physical therapist. A PT will work with you to assess your condition and create a customized treatment plan to help you recovery and return to normal activity. Physical therapy may include exercises for mobility, strength, and increasing load tolerance with good movement patterns as well as creating a plan to assist in reaching individualized goals. Maintaining a healthy spine throughout the lifespan is a great goal.

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From injury recovery to achieving optimal performance, our passion is to help every patient reach their goals and live an active, pain-free life. 

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