What Is Actually Happening When You Hear the Popping Sound at the Chiropractor?

The popping noise you hear while receiving chiropractic services can be both a relief and unsettling. It's a relief because the sound tells you the adjustment worked, but it's unsettling because you don't know quite what's going on. The technical term for that noise is cavitation. Rest assured that it is not the sound of bones moving and is nothing to fear.
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The popping noise you hear while receiving chiropractic services can be both a relief and unsettling. It’s a relief because the sound tells you the adjustment was effective, but it’s unsettling because you don’t know quite what’s going on. The technical term for that noise is cavitation. Rest assured that it is not the sound of bones cracking and is nothing to fear.

What Happens During Chiropractic Services?

There are more than 75 joints in the spine. They are made of hard bone, soft tissue, and gelatinous fluid, and they hold and protect the nerves that carry messages from your brain to the rest of your body. All 75+ joints work together in an almost miraculous way that allows the entire body to move up, down, side-to-side, and to bend 180 degrees or more. If even one of these joints stops working properly it can limit your mobility and cause enough pain to immobilize you. Back and neck pain are the two main reasons people visit the chiropractor.

At the beginning of each chiropractic appointment, your doctor begins searching for subluxations in the spine. Subluxations are spinal joints that have lost their full range of motion. Once “stuck,” immobile joints can cause pain, stiffness, inflammation and can limit your movement.

Subluxations are also bad for the body’s nervous system. When spinal joints lose their range of motion they can irritate the delicate nerves and tissues that are inside and around the spine. Irritation to the nerves can cause a host of symptoms including the following:

  • Weakness in the limbs
  • Burning or tingling sensations running down arms and/or legs
  • Pain
  • Pinching sensation
  • Loss of function
  • Paralysis

Once subluxations are located, your chiropractor will apply hands-on techniques to properly align the musculoskeletal structure. Applying gentle, directed force to the precise area where a joint is not moving correctly is called an adjustment.


The Cause of Popping During an Adjustment


The spinal joints are also known as synovial joints because they produce synovial fluid. Synovial fluid is a natural lubricant that keeps joints healthy and flexible. When this special lubricant is formed, it gives off byproducts in the form of nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxide.

Subluxations can restrict the free movement of synovial fluid and cause pressure between the joints. When the spinal joints are separated slightly during adjustment, it causes a drop in pressure. The signature “pop” sound is actually the release of a gas bubble inside a joint. Think of the sound a champagne bottle makes when the cork is pushed out. It’s not the cork, but the gas bubbles behind it that cause the noise.

Though the sound may be odd, the pop itself is not a sign that the adjustment has worked because the gas bubble is not the cause of the problem. The sound is a side-effect of the joint being opened.


Can I Make My Own Back Pop?


You can cause a spontaneous or purposeful movement of the joints that results in cavitation. When you bend, stretch, or twist you are moving the joints in a natural way similar to what a chiropractor does. However, it is unlikely you would be able to relieve any subluxations this way.

Remember, subluxations are “stuck” joints. If you could easily release them with bending or stretching they would not be causing the discomfort that brings you to the chiropractor. You may be moving the joints above and/or below the subluxation, but not the restricted joint itself. It takes training and skill to locate subluxations and apply the right directional pressure to relieve them.


Are Chiropractic Services Safe?


A chiropractic adjustment takes place in a controlled environment and is done by a highly trained Doctor of Chiropractic. Chiropractors adjust subluxations, not bones. Manipulation is used to open up the joint and return healthy blood flow and improved flexibility to the affected area. Once open, the synovial fluids can re-lubricate the joints and the improved blood flow brings a rush of needed nutrition to the tissues. Some patients associate the pop with the feeling of relief because that is what comes after the adjustment — relief from pain and stiffness.


Don’t Feel Nervous, Feel the Relief


Feeling nervous or having questions about chiropractor services is normal, especially if you’re considering seeing a chiropractor for the first time. You may be curious about the sound of cavitation, but it is nothing to be concerned about. A gentle chiropractic adjustment is a non-invasive, safe, and natural procedure that can return function to the spinal system and support your overall health.

At Vida Integrated Health our goal is to make every patient feel comfortable as we help them heal and recover from the pain caused by subluxations. We encourage patients to ask questions about our treatments, and our doctors are always happy to take the time to explain their procedures. So don’t fear the pop, it is the sound of your pain fading as you regain movement and vitality.

Vida Integrated Health has 5 Locations In the Greater Seattle Area to serve you. Want to schedule and appointment but unsure about your coverage? Easily find out by using our contact us form. We will check your coverage and send you the results!

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