Joint Cavitation: The “popping” behind an adjustment, explained
One of the most popular types of videos circulating today are videos of patients getting adjusted on a chiropractic table. Though chiropractic adjustments can be a safe and gentle solution to back pain, neck pain, and more, these “spine-cracking” videos rack up millions of views, and many viewers love to hear the sounds of spinal manipulation. But what exactly is that sound? Contrary to popular belief, your bones are not cracking- that sound of relief that you're hearing is called Joint Cavitation.
What is joint cavitation?
Joint cavitation is the cause of the “popping” sound you may hear during an adjustment. This occurs because your chiropractor is manipulating your spine, two vertebrae in different directions. These two vertebrae resist getting separated until a certain point, at which they rapidly separate (that’s the adjustment part)- and at that time, dissolved gas in the fluid of the joint comes together to form one bubble. When this happens, sometimes you can hear a pop! As the doctors at ChiroUp put it, “When we distract a joint we basically decrease the pressure on top of that fluid, allowing the vapor bubbles that are trapped within that fluid to escape and come together into a single bubble, and that's the cavitation.”
Does hearing the pop matter in an adjustment?
There was extensive research on this, and according to the chiropractic community, there are differentiating opinions. But according to the same community, about 75% of chiropractic patients say that they would want to hear the joint cavitation. The consensus is that patients tend to feel that if you hear a pop, you know the spine was manipulated. They seem to want to hear the sound to prove to themselves that the adjustment worked.
I’m scared of the pop! What do I do?
Good news! Hearing or not hearing a pop during an adjustment doesn't mean that the treatment didn't work. In fact there are equally effective chiropractic techniques that don't cause joint cavitation AT ALL, meaning that your spine is manipulated in a completely different way.
Hearing that sound during an adjustment is one way that helps signify that the joint in question has gained back a little bit more range of motion. But it is important to note that a good chiropractor will NEVER force your body past any limits. During an adjustment the joint is moved past its passive range of motion but not past its anatomical limit. An audible “pop” is often associated with the procedure, which is the consequence of gasses being released within joint fluid. Since every patient is unique, each treatment and each adjustment is unique as well.
Joints are meant to move! The sound of joint cavitation is frequently heard with certain types of adjustments, but there are other adjustment techniques that don’t produce any sound at all. In conclusion, you don’t need to hear a “pop” to get an adjustment. If you have never been to a chiropractor, don’t worry! The talented team at BC + PT will help you feel more comfortable throughout your adjustment and treatment plan. If you have any additional questions about what is an adjustment, or what else to expect from a first visit, check out our website, and when you are ready to take the leap, give us a call or fill out one of our contact forms!