What Causes the Popping Sound in Chiropractic Adjustments?

What Causes the Popping Sound in Chiropractic Adjustments?

The popping sound that is caused by chiropractic adjustments is directly related to negative pressure that builds up in joints. The pressure comes from the build-up of gases and fluids that keep all body joints lubricated.

You might have heard that what chiropractors do is referred to as “bone-cracking.” In all fairness, that is a big misnomer. They are in no way “cracking bones.” What they are actually doing is moving bones around, which can result in a “popping” sound.

There is no reason to be alarmed about the sounds you hear during a chiropractic adjustment. The reality is you might want to hear those sounds. Why? The sounds can serve as confirmation that what the chiropractor is trying to do is in fact what they are doing. What they are doing is a process called fixing a “subluxation.” A subluxation is a misalignment of bones that pinch or puts too much pressure on nerves in the spine.

What Are the Causes of the Popping or Cracking During Chiropractic Treatment?

The point where two bones come together is referred to as a joint. To keep joints functioning properly as they should, the body secretes “synovial” fluids and gases (oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide) in joints. These fluids and gases serve as joint lubricants.

When chiropractors are manipulating the spine, many of their adjustment techniques are performed quickly. The quick movement or manipulation of joints causes the negative pressure that exists between joints to suddenly release. The cause of the pressure is the aforementioned gaseous fluids that have built up in the joint. It’s the sudden release of this negative pressure that causes the popping sound.

Description of What Happens When a Chiropractor Cracks Your Back

Over time, bones within the spine will become misaligned. It can happen naturally because of bone wear and tear or due to other issues like an injury. When two connecting bones become misaligned with one another, it causes a subluxation. That’s a bad thing because eventually, the pain will come calling due to the pinching of or pressure being put on nerves.

When a chiropractor “cracks” your back, they are effectively pulling (vertebrae, etc.) joints apart so they can be reset them with the proper alignment. The reference to cracking comes from the sound two connected bones make at the joint when they are suddenly separated.

Should I worry about joint “popping” being harmful? Will it eventually result in arthritis?

In no way should you be worried about the popping sound you will hear during chiropractic care. It’s not harmful nor will it do anything to increase the chance you will get arthritis in the future. After all, it’s nothing more than the release of gases trapped in the joint.

There is one caveat. That would be too much cracking could result in ligament damage to the joint being manipulated.

It might interest you to know that the popping can release endorphins in the treatment area. Endorphins are chemicals produced in the pleasure centers of the brain. According to a 2011 study, that popping sound can create a sense of pleasure and relief.

Can Damage be done to your back by cracking it?

When done properly, cracking your back won’t cause damage. Where the problems can occur is when the back-cracking process is not done properly. That’s why you would be better off letting a chiropractor crack your back as opposed to you trying to do it on your own.

As for the problems that could occur if the back-cracking process is not done properly, here are four primary concerns that come from back-cracking:

  • Applying too much force during the back-cracking process can tear muscles
  • Applying too much force during the back-cracking process can pinch nerves near the spinal column
  • Cracking the back too frequently can permanently stretch back ligaments, causing perpetual instability
  • Applying too much force during the back-cracking process can result in injured blood vessels, increasing the risk of blood clots in the future

Will I Need to Hear Popping/Cracking during a Chiropractic Adjustment?

Honestly, you won’t need to hear it, but you might want to hear it. That popping sound offers you some assurance that your chiropractor is properly doing what they need to do. For your chiropractor, the popping sound serves as confirmation they are making progress toward the results they want.

The sound is disturbing. Is there anything I can do?

It’s true. For some people, the popping sound can be a bit disturbing. That’s largely because the first time the sound comes, it’s unexpected. Also, most people don’t know yet that the popping sound is not indicative of a problem.

If the sound really bothers you, you can wear earplugs or put on some earphones while playing your favorite music. Note: You will still feel the popping sensation. There is nothing you can do about that.

Is it possible a chiropractic adjustment won’t result in hearing cracking?

Keeping in mind that chiropractors are armed with a lot of different adjustment techniques, it would be unreasonable to think all types of adjustments will result in the popping sound. If the method your chiropractor is using doesn’t normally result in cracking, you can expect there will be no cracking.

Do All Chiropractic Adjustments Result in a “Crack” or “Pop” Sound?

No. The reality is some adjustment techniques will almost always create the popping sound and some techniques won’t create any sound at all. For your own peace of mind, you should have a treatment consultation with your chiropractor prior to treatment. They can tell you want to expect during your adjustments, and that includes whether or not you might hear popping.

Does popping/cracking result is a better outcome of a chiropractic adjustment?

No. As mentioned before, it’s really nothing more that the release of gas pressure from a joint. The reality is some types of adjustments cause popping while other types will create nothing in the way of sound. The effectiveness of the treatment really comes down to the effectiveness of the chiropractor performing the adjustment.

What Is the Difference Between Back Cracking and Chiropractic Adjustment

Back cracking is a very specific type of chiropractic adjustment. The term chiropractic adjustment defines a broader range of chiropractic adjustment options. As you might expect, back cracking is a subset of chiropractic adjustment.

Do chiropractors ‘crack’ your back during Chiropractic?

Whether or not your chiropractor will crack your back during treatment depends on their objectives and the condition they are treating. If they are focusing on certain parts of the spine or other parts of the body, back cracking might not be included as an adjustment. If your chiropractor feels back cracking will aid in the treatment of your condition, they will include it.

Is it possible to make my own back pop?

Yes. There are several back-stretching methods you can use to crack your own back. However, you shouldn’t use any of these methods until you know how to employ them safely. Here are four methods you might want to consider:

  • Knee-to-chest – laying on your back, you would pull your knees up to your chest
  • Lower back rotation – laying on your back with your knees up, you would rotate your hips back and forth
  • Bridge stretch – with your back on a horizontal surface and your feet on a vertical surface, you would thrust your pelvis upward
  • Seated lower back rotation – from a sitting position with one leg extended, you would rotate your hips and neck

You should not attempt to pop your own back

While some back stretches might result in the popping sound, it’s not a sound you should be seeking. Doing so might result in you using too much force or pressure to get the popping sound, which could result in a joint injury.

Benefits of Having a Chiropractic Crack Your Back

The primary reason your chiropractor will crack your back is that they know you will benefit in some way from them doing so. Some of the potential benefits are listed below.

Better overall body functionality

Back cracking plays a role in bringing the spine back into proper alignment. When the spine is in proper alignment, the entire body tends to function much better.

Instantaneous pain relief

For minor and intermittent pain issues, back cracking can help relieve pain within the first treatment or two. This is only enhanced by the fact endorphins are released to the pleasure centers in the brain. It’s a matter of pleasure replacing pain.

Restoring full mobility

When the spine is misaligned, the individual loses back flexibility, range of motion, balance, and strength, all of which affect one’s mobility. While it will certainly take many back-cracking adjustments for optimum results, the realignment process will eventually result in the restoration of full mobility.

Lowering of stress levels

When you are not feeling right, you are much more susceptible to the build-up of stress. This is often exacerbated by sleep and eating problems. It only takes a few back-cracking adjustments to get you feeling better, which should result in the lowering of your stress levels.

Better overall quality of life

Your overall quality of life will always be directly affected by your health. If your spine is misaligned and pain always exists in your life, it stands to reason addressing health issues will help with the overall quality of your life. Back-cracking adjustments can help restore good health.



Is chiropractic popping good?

A better word would be indifferent. It’s neither good nor bad. It’s just a sound that occurs when chiropractors are making certain types of adjustments.

Does the cracking at a chiropractor do anything?

It’s not really indicative of anything other than the fact the chiropractor is doing their job.

What is the cracking noise in a chiropractic adjustment?

The cracking or popping noise occurs when a chiropractor is making an adjustment to a joint. The actual sound represents the release of negative pressure caused by the fluids and gases that exist in a joint as a lubricant.

Why do chiropractors pop your neck?

If your chiropractor wants to pop your neck, they want to do so for a few different reasons. Their goals are usually directed at improving mobility in your neck, pain relief associated with neck arthritis, and or realigning neck tendons and ligaments.

What toxins are released after a chiropractic adjustment?

Over time, toxins will build up in the body, accumulating in the joints. After a chiropractic adjustment, many of those toxins get released. These toxins come from air and water pollution, exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls, pesticides and flame retardants, the food we eat, and other sources in our environment.

How do chiropractors know where to adjust?

There are several methods that a chiropractor can use to identify the target of their adjustments. One way would be via pressure point testing for pain. Another more obvious option would be diagnostic imaging like X-rays and MRIs.

Why do chiropractors crack ears?

The most common reason for a chiropractor to crack a patient’s ears is to address a clogged ear condition. A clogged ear condition is caused by the build-up of mucus in the sinuses. As the sinuses fill and swell, they put pressure on the eardrum and eustachian tube in the middle ear. Ear cracking helps prompt better drainage of fluids and the release of pressure.

Is chiropractic cracking safe?

As long as the back cracking process is handled properly, it’s very safe with little to no risk. However, cracking of joints too frequently or with too much pressure can result in injury and damage to the body.

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