Why Your Spine “Pops” During Adjustments

I have to admit that I’m not exactly the biggest proponent for cracking my neck, or knuckles, or whatever other body part people like cracking these days. I think it may be the noise that turns me off of it more than anything else; for some reason, it’s just very unsettling for me. I was recently getting lunch with some friends, and one of them proceeded to very loudly crack her neck. My other friend winced on her behalf, and asked if she was worried about causing any damage to her neck. This made me curious about the cracking and popping noises associated with not only our own everyday manipulations, but also of the kinds of treatments and adjustments performed in a routine chiropractic session.

Many patients become concerned when they hear popping noises during their adjustment, and often fear that this means that damage is being done to the spinal column. I decided to do some research and figure out the truth about this phenomena once and for all, which is how I came across an article by Back To Basics Chiropractic that helped to shed some light on this strange yet very interesting topic.

It turns out that this process actually has a name – cavitation. Cavitation occurs when gas is released from spaces, or cavities, within the joints. How does this happen? As joint surfaces become slightly separated over time, due to general wear and tear, gas (in the body, it’s nitrogen) ends up filling up these spaces, rather than getting dissolved into the tissues surrounding the spinal column, as is what normally happens. If you’re still having trouble trying to picture this, let alone understand it, it’s actually very similar to the popping noise that’s made when the cork is taken out of a champagne bottle. In that case, carbon dioxide is being released out of the cavity of the bottleneck.

It’s important to remember that not every patient will hear, let alone produce, a popping or cracking noise during any of their adjustments. After all, the main focus of chiropractic isn’t to release gas from the joints, but to improve mobility and stability in the joint and its surrounding tissues. However, the next time you go in for a chiropractic manipulation, you can remain relaxed if your body does produce any sort of noise like this, now that you know it’s completely harmless and fully explainable. 

This article is made available for general, entertainment and educational purposes only. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of The Joint Corp (or its franchisees and affiliates). You should always seek the advice of a licensed healthcare professional.