Yoga & Sternum Cracking

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If you hear cracks and pops during your yoga practice, you are in good company. Yoga is a systematic approach to releasing tension in the body. The crackling of toes, a possible pop in the hip and a few crunchy sounds in the shoulder are the byproduct of a yoga practice. If the cracking sound occurs in the area around the chest, you may hear it referred to as sternum cracking. The cracking is only a sound, not to be confused with the sound of a bone cracking. Still, it may raise some concerns.

Causes of Cracking

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When you experience a cracking sound from the chest, it is not the sternum that cracks. The movement is occurring at the sternum and collarbone around a joint called the sternoclavicular joint, or the ribs in that area, according to yoga and yoga anatomy teacher Judith Hanson Lasater, Ph.D. and PT. Lasater has taught yoga for more than 30 years.

There are a few reasons for the cracking sounds. It could be a rib that is out of place or a tendon that slips, according to registered yoga teacher David Keil. “If there is pain, of course, go to a doctor,” Keil said. If there is no pain, chances are your body is OK.

Anatomy

The sternum, or breastbone, is connected to the clavicle (collar bones) by soft tissue. The very top of the sternum is the manubrium. The ribs connect to the sternum in the front of the body, and the spine in the back.

Bones are attached to bones by ligaments, and there is soft tissue between the bones, to create tension. A moderate amount of tension holds the body in place. Too much tension may cause stress. If there is too much stress the body may react. This reaction — the ligaments popping, a rib moving or cartilage breaking — could cause the sensation referred to as sternum cracking.

Frequent Cracking

If you feel the need to crack the sternum, or if it happens every time you back bend in yoga, you might be putting too much pressure on that specific place, Lasater said. The sound can be a sign that there is stress on the joint. Students who continually crack the body might consider if there is an actual benefit to the movement they are choosing or if a less aggressive posture is more supportive of the body. If the cracking becomes regular, Lasater recommends visiting a physical therapist or chiropractor. Other reasons for frequent cracking include past trauma, inflammation or arthritis.

Prevention

If you are experiencing sternum cracking and want it to end, begin by observing the postures that cause cracking.

Sternum cracking usually occurs in twists and back bends. You can prevent sternum cracking by limiting the range of motion in the area of the sternum. It may be necessary to twist or back bend less.

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