No, checking isn't as severe.
It's referred to a lot as "tying around", and yes people think it helps their horse's bend more. IMO it does the opposite because the extreme flexion in the vertebrae would cause inflammation leading to osteoarthritis and eventual fusing of the vertebrae.
Other potential problems consist of the horse "hitting" the bit pressure, stopping quickly, rearing and flipping over backwards. Horses can also become very resistant to handling, saddling, etc (to the point of biting and kicking) so that they are unmanageable.
To encourage a horse to bend, lateral suppling exercises such as serpentines, circles and leg yields should be used along with proper lunging techniques.