What Does Back Cracking Mean in Chiropractic Adjustments?

by Dr. Brent Wells

A woman having her shoulder stretched by a chiropractor while lying on a massage table.

Sounds present our ears with information that helps to keep us informed, healthy, and safe. So, what is that cracking sound that we sometimes hear in our bodies during chiropractic treatments? Is this a good or bad sound in the body? Chiropractors use techniques that may result in a sound that we do not understand, but that may benefit us.

The thought of this sound may have kept some away from chiropractic care for a time, only to soon learn the value of its meaning. This strange neck cracking and back cracking ‘pop’ often accompanies joint health and may come alongside care that further promotes wellness in the body. What exactly is happening when we hear that sound?

What Is Happening When I Hear the ‘Pop’

Over time, our joints may become stiff and stationary within their own mechanisms. A subluxation may be understood as a slight misalignment or a sense of stiffness as the joint tries to maintain its positioning. This is different than when a joint becomes completely removed from its socket, causing a full dislocation.

Yet, when a subluxation occurs in a joint, the joint will not function as well as it should and may cause pain. Techniques may be used to eliminate or prevent pain depending on the needs of a patient. During a chiropractic adjustment, the physician applies a gentle, directed force to the area of the body that is receiving care. This force works to restore vertebrae to their proper position and restore range of motion.

Our joints allow us to move smoothly, not as a robot might with jerky and rigid movements. This does not happen without a few steps that we may take for granted. The body naturally produces synovial fluid for lubricating joints to aid in our movement. Gases are formed during the process of creating this magical fluid. Pressure builds as the body makes the fluid it needs for the joints to function at full capacity.

During a chiropractic adjustment, this much needed synovial fluid is allowed to flow throughout the joint, providing relief to the patient. Sometimes we hear a ‘crack’ as the joint releases gas that was formed during the process of creating synovial fluid. The sound that we hear is the result of a change in pressure within the joint being treated as gas exits the joint.

This release of gas is called ‘cavitation.’ This is the popping, or cracking, sound that we hear. Patients can often feel the change in pressure in the joints and report that it is a good, relaxing feeling. The body knows how to thank us when direct and intentional care of the spine is provided.

Chiropractic care works to minimize pressure throughout the body – joint by joint. Once pressure begins to decrease, pain also decreases. Care is designed to allow the body to regain its naturally intended procedures for maintaining health. Holistic care is provided by working on individual portions of the body, allowing them to work together within their own intended parameters.

When performing a hip adjustment, the risks are minimal, as are neck and spine adjustments.

A chiropractor applying pressure to a woman's upper back.

What If I Do Not Hear A Cracking Sound During Chiropractic Treatment?

What if I do not hear this type of sound during a chiropractic adjustment? If I do not hear a popping or cracking sound during an adjustment, does that mean that nothing has been accomplished? No. Chiropractors are not looking to hear the sound.

Rather, it is the sense of movement in the joints where attention is placed. A chiropractor is looking to see that the joint is free to move in the manner in which it was intended. Chiropractic adjustment works within the joints to restore alignment (not create sounds).

Do chiropractic adjustments hurt? Absolutely not! In fact, many clients will tell you that adjustments feel like a sweet release.


Why Does This Benefit the Body?

Chiropractic adjustments give a subtle reminder of how movements should be made within each joint. Sometimes slightly askew, joints may send pain signals to alert us that they are not fully equipped to send messages through the central nervous system. This does not mean the joint is inoperable or that we cannot move our bodies. Rather, we may not retain the best level of functionality within a joint.

Care is given to restore the body’s intended functions. Chiropractic care is administered in the event of injury, for treating chronic ailments or to help slow degenerative pain conditions. The body retains intensive natural healing properties. Chiropractic works to bring these out and highlight the body’s ability to gain and retain wellness.

Trained physicians use their knowledge of the neuromuscular and musculoskeletal systems to bring direct healing to individual portions of the body. This provides an increased range of motion and improves nerve flow throughout the finite connections in the body. Movements are made with each joint before and after care is given to determine what level of function is present.

Safe and painless, these gentle movements, provide a natural source of wellness and health. Chiropractic care can be administered for the purpose of healing joints after injury, decrease pain in chronic ailments, and slow the natural process of spinal deterioration. We will naturally experience new and different sensations as the body ages.

Chiropractic care works to minimize the need for pain to be included in the list of sensations that we encounter. When it is not possible for the pain to be completely eliminated, chiropractic helps to make pain manageable. It is very common that pain is eliminated in patients that receive chiropractic care. How far pain may be eliminated will depend very much on a client’s initial condition of health.

Chiropractic offers a safe and holistic manner in which to pursue the highest level of care for pain conditions possible. The body is treated as a complete unit with the patient’s whole spectrum of health in mind. Multiple conditions are considered together for the greatest level of wellness that may be given from the tiniest portions of the body to the larger portions that we can see with our eyes.

Designed to correct subluxations in the spine, chiropractic adjustments work to bring back the natural alignment in joints. When joints are aligned properly the natural communications in our body are better able to do their intended jobs for us. The central nervous system uses the nerves that run through our joints to carry information where it is needed in the body.

If a joint is not fully aligned, this information can become confusing, sending out alerts to the brain that messages are not getting where they are meant to go. Alert signals that we call pain can be sent to alert the individual that something is not working just exactly as it should. Chiropractic adjustment provides a gentle reminder to the body on how to keep the mechanisms in the joints in the intended places.


Is This Safe for the Spine and Other Joints?

Yes! Chiropractic techniques are safe – and healthy – for the body when completed by a properly trained chiropractic physician. Knowledge of the intricate portions of the body and how they function offer great benefit toward knowing how to keep them well. Recognizing when something can be made better, begins with knowing what ‘healthy’ means for the body.

You might wonder if neck manipulations are safe. Let us assure you that they are very, very safe, despite what the media may tell you.

Chiropractic techniques involve more than just a back cracking sound that may be heard. Direct care is given to the spine using the knowledge that is gained through earning a doctorate of chiropractic. Medical licensing is not taken lightly. Care treatments are designed with the long-term health of the spine in mind.

A chiropractic adjustment is a focus placed on giving joints care that is beneficial for helping them function in the manner they were designed to function. A chiropractic back adjustment is a portion of what may be undertaken with spinal manipulation. Spinal manipulation is when direct care is given by hand to the spine.

Spinal manipulation brings wellness in multiple tiny segments for the health and wellness of the spine. Instead of an involved surgical procedure, chiropractic care works to get and keep the spine healthy in small increments working within each vertebra in the spine. Chiropractic techniques work to restore the body’s natural methods of healing itself.


Who Does Chiropractic Adjustment Help?

Chiropractic adjustments can be completed regularly to help keep the spine healthy, flexible, and ready to take on the tasks that we bring to it. Keeping the communication connections healthy and ready for action is a wonderful way to slow the natural process of deterioration that will take place throughout the spinal column. It is inevitable that time will take its course on our joints, but chiropractic care can help to minimize the effects that we feel from the natural aging process.

Chiropractic treatments may be used to help treat:

  • Arthritis
  • Back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Scoliosis
  • Stenosis
  • Whiplash
  • Headaches
  • Migraines
  • Injury
  • Other conditions

Chronic pain sufferers often find great reward in the methods of chiropractic. Treatments are designed to remind the body of its own mechanisms for healing. Chronic pain develops out of the body’s sense of retaining pain as a ‘habit.’ Once healing from injury or ailment has occurred, the body may have become so adjusted to sending alert signals that it just keeps sending this information to the brain: “Attention Needed Here.”

Chiropractic care helps the body to recognize that healing has taken place. Signals of pain are no longer needed. It is the small reminders provided to the body during chiropractic treatments that help it to utilize its own innate sense of health. Dramatic procedures can often be avoided through regular care that allows the neuromuscular system to work within itself properly.


Are the Techniques Associated with Joint Cracking Effective?

You may be wondering if all of this even works. Does this process that allows such a strange sound in the body, actually help us? Yes! The goal is to bring healing through small reminders to each joint on what wellness is meant to look like for each individual joint.

It is more than just neck cracking and back cracking that brings health and wellness to the body. The sound itself can be made simply by moving our limbs! Movements may offer something that the ears recognize, but healing comes from the process of chiropractic as applied to the body.

Do chiropractors require many visits? The number of visits will depend on the root problem. Your doctor will discuss your treatment plan with you.

Practices are based on the medical knowledge of the body that is applied by hand to each joint in the body with precision and care. While the exact experience of each patient cannot be determined in advance, it is highly likely that you will enjoy the benefits of chiropractic care with much gratitude. Chiropractic care has been in use for over a hundred years with millions of clients who will happily share their experience.

The level of effectiveness that is experienced will, of course, depend on each client’s condition of health prior to the start of treatments. Pain sufferers may readily welcome a new sense of wellness. Clients seeking to minimize, eliminate, or avoid future pain conditions may find great benefit from increasing the body’s ability to retain its natural ability for healing.

The care that is chosen will also play a role in how effective treatments are for a patient. Be sure to seek a professional chiropractic physician who is fully trained to take on your health needs. A multi-disciplinary approach like what we provide may be desired for patients seeking to further increase the effectiveness of their care.


Chiropractic Care

Better Health Chiropractic Anchorage invites clients to come and try out personalized treatments. Care plans can be created that include chiropractic adjustments, massage therapy, pain rehabilitation therapies, and other treatments specific to your health needs. Call us today at 1.877.346.5255.

Our staff is ready and equipped to help you choose your options based on insurance and personal preferences. Care plans may be developed to provide healing from injury, ailment, or slow degenerative conditions. Come check us out in person!


Get Dr. Wells’ latest health advice.
Sign up now.