Is Popping and Cracking w/o an Adjustment OK

I’m often told that “since starting here my neck/back is popping a lot more on its own.” I’ll usually follow that statement up with, well is it painful. Almost always the answer is no. So what is that. At some point one of us has probably talked to you about what the noise actually is. We call it a cavitation, which if you were to look up you’d find that’s a formation of an empty space within a solid object or body. So in our case the cavitation is a formation and break of a air bubble within your joint space, specifically the synovial fluid found in the joint capsule. It’s good to know that as satisfying as it may be, we don’t need to hear this audible release to have a good adjustment. And if you happened to crack your neck (hopefully just by turning your head, without using your hand to help) right before getting adjusted, we wont be able to get that cavitation from that specific joint until another air bubble is created, which can take a few minutes.

So is it OK to turn my head, without my hands, to crack my neck. Yeah, its OK. You aren’t moving anything, its just stretching that joint enough for the audible release to happen. No real issue there. However I have specified without using your hands. Please don’t do that. You can move things, and it’ll mostly be the wrong way to go, it can cause injury, and some people believe it can cause Bells Palsy, which is partial paralysis of the face. So please don’t try to self adjust with your hands.

What about the pop in my ankle, knee, elbow, etc. that I can do over and over again? Well again if it isn’t painful its not much of a concern, but you probably don’t want to just keel doing it as a party trick. If its something you can recreate over and over it’s not being caused by the same mechanism described above. It’s most likely from chronic ligament instability or a tendon snapping over bone. This is generally not something to be concerned about.

-Dr. Mark

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