Snap, Crackle, Pop!
By: Dr. Carrie Gingerich
Patients often ask what the cracking sound that they hear actually is. Or they will come into the room and say, “I need a good cracking today, doc.” And if someone asks us to “crack them” we may laugh with you and joke back something like “Eggs get cracked, your spine gets adjusted!” What is that cracking sound, anyway?
It’s a great question and we want to help our patients, both new and current, to better understand how an adjustment works. The “cracking” or “pop” you sometimes hear during an adjustment is not your bones or anything breaking like some may think. But rather a release of built-up gases such as oxygen, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen that were contained in the fluid within the joints themselves. The fancy term for this is called “cavitation”, and when adjusted this pressure leaves the joint and can create the sound we hear.
It’s important to note that the cavitation or “pop” itself will not always happen nor does it NEED to in order for an adjustment to be successful. It is simply sometimes a byproduct of the motions we perform during a high velocity adjustment. You might also notice that during certain adjustments you feel things move and are accompanied by this sound, while others often don’t feel or hear anything. It truly depends on the technique being used, the adjustment application, region of the body, and even the person.
What is important during an adjustment is the stress and interference that can be removed from the nerves and their pathways to the rest of your nervous system. This is accomplished by adjusting any subluxation and/or fixation of the joints which realigns and induces proper motion into the spine, and this gives the body proper time to adapt to these changes and heal.
Self-adjusting or when you “crack” your own neck or back may produce this sound too and provide some relief for a while but you’ll soon notice those discomforts come back rather quickly. This is because when self-adjusting you’re most often not correcting the restricted and/or fixed joint but rather the healthy joints above or below. All joints both fixed and non-fixed can create gas build up resulting in a cavitation. This is why Chiropractors go through extensive schooling and training to be able to feel and locate these restricted joints and provide a specific, high velocity low force adjustment and remove said interference from the rest of your body.