Some people love the sound. Some hate it. Some think that it is the only indication that an adjustment was successful, while some think that you may have broken something when they hear it. I’m talking about the audible “pop” your joints make most of the time that a chiropractic adjustment is made. This noise, and thoughts on it may be one of the factors in chiropractic that causes the most misunderstanding in our profession and I hope I can clear some of it up for you guys in this blog.
So what is it?
The popping noise that your joint makes after an adjustment is not any bones popping or ligaments snapping back in place. Older evidence suggested that this noise was pressure inside the joint being quickly reduced and releasing gas bubbles that were formed inside the joint. Newer evidence shows that instead of gas bubbles being released, vapor cavities (or bubbles) are being formed with the release of pressure inside the joint that is being manipulated. This is what the “pop” noise is whether it is you self-manipulating your joints, or it is adjusted by a chiropractor, physical therapist or osteopath.
So do all adjustments cause cavitation every time?
Not necessarily. While a nice, deep sounding “clunk” is a good indication of a great adjustment, it is not necessary for correction in your care or is it something to expect with each segment on each visit. Some chiropractors use techniques that don’t produce cavitation’s at all yet patients get positive results. Some segments, especially on older patients, have so much degeneration and damage that they may never get the loud explosive cavitation’s that healthier joints in younger patients get. Lastly, clinically we’ve found that the louder the cavitation correlates with the speed of the adjustment. For patients who desire a little more TLC in their care and prefer less speed or force, cavitations won’t be very loud or always noticeable. Here at Stout Chiropractic we do manual, high velocity, low amplitude thrusts but we focus on the MOVEMENT of the joint rather than focusing on the animation of “cracking your whole spine like a glow stick”.
Self-manipulating your joints
I get asked all of the time about self-manipulating necks, backs, knuckles, hips and knees. Most of the time, you will not hurt yourself. This becomes more apparent after reading above and learning about what causes the audible and why it feels good. The problem with it however, is how you may go about self-manipulating. If you can put your neck through normal ranges of motion and it makes an audible, great! If you have to take your head a little past normal ranges of motion, I would say limit that. If you have to take your hand and twist your head further then I would highly recommend you stop that.
There are a couple of reasons you should avoid this. First, the joints that are making audibles are more than likely more mobile and compensating for other areas in your body that have limited motion. You’re just releasing some pressure in those joints which will come right back any ways which is why if you do this, you do it every day or multiple times a day. Second and more importantly, when you twist your neck or put any of your body parts in unnatural ranges, you are potentially putting other parts of anatomy in danger such as ligaments and blood vessels.
Chiropractors spend many hours of education on anatomy and kinesiology and spend many more hours in school learning how to safely give adjustments to areas that need them. If the popping is all you want, then I’m sure you can watch a video on YouTube and have a friend give you a bear hug or pull your neck with a towel (but please don’t do that).
At Stout Chiropractic, we aren’t in the business of making “pop” noises. We are in the business of getting peoples’ bodies functioning properly through Chiropractic adjustments which most of the time produces the cavitation or the famous “popping” noise that chiropractors are mostly known for. I hope this blog cleared up this mysterious noise for you, but if you have any further questions feel free to leave a comment, shoot us a message on Facebook or even ask us in the office. If you’re reading this and don’t have a chiropractor yet, comment or message us for a recommendation in your area.