Why Do Chiropractic Adjustments Make a Sound?

adjustmentWhether or not you’ve ever had an adjustment by a qualified chiropractor, you’re probably familiar with the cracking and popping sounds that happen along the spinal column and joints throughout the body. For some people, these sounds can be unsettling and even alarming. After all, your neck and back are important, vulnerable parts of the human body. You’re trusting a stranger not to hurt or damage these areas.

People who integrate chiropractic care into their health and wellness usually come to trust their chiropractors very quickly, knowing that these sounds are followed by tangible relief. But what exactly are these noises—and should your body really be making them? Is it healthy to crack your own neck or back? It’s important to get answers to these questions in order to have full confidence in chiropractic care.

What exactly are chiropractors “adjusting”?

The purpose of an adjustment is to reduce something called “subluxation.” Basically, subluxation means that a joint has become stuck, and has lost its full range of motion. This causes a number of problems. First, it restricts your range of motion. You may feel stiff, can’t turn your head fully, or can’t stand fully erect. You may experience pain and inflammation. Subluxations can also irritate the nerve tissue as it exits the spine, which can interfere with this very sensitive system. If subluxations aren’t addressed over the course of months or years, they can disrupt the body’s functioning and its systems.

When a chiropractor finds a subluxation, he or she will correct it by performing chiropractic adjustments—in other words, by clinically manipulating specific areas of the vertebrae. There are a variety of techniques a chiropractor can use. Some produce an audible noise and some do not. Low-force techniques and special instruments can be used for those who feel uncomfortable with certain parts of their body being twisted or adjusted.

What are the sounds?

The joints of the spine are called synovial joints, and they produce a fluid called synovial fluid. This fluid lubricates the joint, enabling it to move. The production of synovial fluid creates bi-products; these bi-products are oxygen, nitrogen, and CO2. When a joint is opened up, or gapped, there is a change of pressure and the gas is released. The popping sound you hear is this release. The release of these gasses is much like the release of gas bubbles from a champagne bottle.

After the joint is gapped, synovial fluids re-lubricate the joint and normal motion returns to the joint. Most people feel better immediately—but this depends on the severity of the subluxation, the length of time they’ve had it, and other physiological variables.

Should I crack my own neck or back?

In a word, no—this is not a good idea. The neck area contains the spinal cord, blood vessels, ligaments, nerves, and other very important (and delicate) parts of the body. Every time you manipulate your own joints, you are causing ligaments to stretch. When you continually stretch your ligaments, they can’t provide the stability that the joints in your neck and back need to maintain proper alignment. A far safer and more effective path is to seek care from a licensed, qualified chiropractor who has undergone the years of training necessary to care for these sensitive areas.

The sound of relief

There is no doubt that the sounds produced during a chiropractic adjustment can be a bit scary, particularly for those who have never had an adjustment. However, you can rest assured that a trained professional has a great deal of training and experience in performing these adjustments. As with any type of medical care, it’s important to voice your concerns and questions ahead of time, so that you can relax and develop confidence in the treatment you’re about to receive. Once you experience the medical relief that is possible from these natural adjustments, you’ll realize just how effective quality chiropractic care can be.

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