It’s a pretty common sight to see - you’re sitting and having a conversation with somebody when they suddenly grab their chin and crack their own neck. Another common sight is somebody sitting at their desk and twisting around almost 180° until they hear that satisfying “pop” from their back. While you may feel some temporary satisfaction when you hear and feel these “pops”, the safety of doing this constantly comes into question.
What is the popping noise?
While the popping noise is commonly referred to as a “crack”, the reality is that nothing in the body is actually cracking at all! The noise is actually created by the release of gas from the joints.
Joints, the small spaces between bones, are small caverns filled with a fluid called synovial fluid. This fluid is used for lubrication and allows for smooth movement that doesn’t damage the bones or other joint structures. Like many other fluids in the body, the synovial fluid contains many dissolved gasses such as oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide.
If your joints don’t move, over time, they can adhere together and create the “stiff feeling” people experience. Forcing the joint to move breaks the adherence in the joint and results in the joints opening up very quickly. The resulting pressure change creates a vacuum that is quickly filled by the dissolved gasses in the joint. The vacuum only lasts for an instance and when the pressure returns to normal, the bubble pops resulting in the classic “cracking” sound.
What is a chiropractic adjustment?
A chiropractic adjustment is a specific force applied to restricted segments of the spine. Rochester chiropractors have been trained to find restrictions that may be responsible for stiffness or pain, and have the best techniques to specifically remove those restrictions.
Chiropractic adjustments are meant to be high velocity and low amplitude - meaning the force applied should be very fast but the actual movement is minimal. Restrictions in the spine respond better to precise high-speed impulses rather than a broad high-powered force. This is why professional chiropractors can vary dramatically in size and build; as long as the speed is sufficient, any person can be trained to deliver a good chiropractic adjustment.
Contrary to popular belief, the popping noise is not actually necessary for a chiropractic adjustment to be successful. If there is not enough gas present in the synovial fluid at the time of the adjustment, there will be no popping noise. That does not mean the joint was not restricted and a lack of noise does not mean the adjustment didn’t work to alleviate that restriction. Essentially, the popping noise is a side effect that can possibly occur as a result of an adjustment.
Should I adjust myself?
No. Not even a chiropractor can adjust themselves. People who self-adjust themselves looking for the popping noise can actually be doing more harm than good. Self-adjustments are not specific and the force typically doesn’t even go through the segments that are restricted; the popping that happens in a self-adjustment is most likely coming from an already mobile joint that is now stretching further than it should be. The extra movement will feel good initially, but the relief is only temporary and over time the constant stress can permanently change the ligament's tension. The extra ligament laxity can cause instability, resulting in chronic tightness and pain.
Adjustments should only be performed to restricted segments and it can be very difficult to find those restrictions without proper training, especially on your own body. A well-trained chiropractor can locate the specific restriction, apply the appropriate adjustment, and provide relief without damaging any of the surrounding joints or structures.
What if it pops on its own?
It’s pretty common to hear some popping happening from everyday movements. Most commonly, they can be heard by just doing a simple stretch. This is fine! Minor restrictions and gas releases happen all the time and there is nothing wrong with the noises produced in these instances. The problems happen when you go seeking the popping noise through overstretching. If a restriction can’t be released through typical stretches, it may be time to make an appointment with your Rochester chiropractor.
Here at Rush-Henrietta Family Chiropractic, our chiropractor in Rochester has years of experience in finding and removing all joint restrictions in the body. When combined with other therapies, chiropractic adjustments help provide relief of tightness and pain that may have built up from everyday activities. Schedule an appointment today and experience the relief chiropractic care can provide.