Pop! What Exactly is that Sound Behind a Chiropractic Adjustment?

Oftentimes, people refer to receiving a chiropractic as getting their neck "popped" or "cracked". While I try to use the proper terminology with my patients (spinal adjustment, manipulation, correction, etc) it's inevitable that this terminology will be used, since we often do hear this popping sound with chiropractic adjustments! I figured today I would clear the air on what that pop really is.

Chiropractic adjustments specifically correct spinal misalignments. Whenever we deliver a chiropractic adjustment, we are restoring full motion to a spinal joint that has lost its motion in a specific direction or way. 

The loud popping sound that occurs with a chiropractic adjustment can often cause people to feel unsettled or anxious. Not to fret! The actual pop is called a "cavitation" and, contrary to popular belief, that pop is not the bones themselves actually cracking, it is simply GAS being released from the joint space.

When a joint is misaligned, friction is created in the joint. This joint creates a gas mixture of oxygen, nitrogen, and CO2. When we open or, or gap, the joint with a chiropractic adjustment, this gas is released from the joint, and voila, you hear that popping sound! 

Sometimes, this cavitation does not occur with a chiropractic adjustment, and this can be for a number of reasons. Research has shown that the popping occurrence is NOT necessary for a successful adjustment, and attempting an adjustment more than a few times can be harmful and cause injury to the tissues. 

This is where I am very grateful to have my tool of Applied Kinesiology muscle testing! I simply retest using muscle testing after delivering the adjustment to see if we obtained a successful adjustment or not, rather than attempt an adjustment until I hear a cavitation. Once again, thank goodness for muscle testing!