Why Does My Neck Crack during a Chiropractic Adjustment?

Many people think that chiropractic adjustments are only about cracking the back. Furthermore, they may think that the cracking sound that the joints make in response to a spinal adjustment, particularly in the cervical (neck) area, is a sign of damage to the vertebrae. Patients may have read an article or heard a story on TV about the dangers of chiropractic care, and cervical spinal adjustments in particular. Friends or family with bad chiropractic experiences will only add to the fear and misconception.

However, chiropractic care offers a number of benefits to patients. The cracking or popping sound that occurs during a cervical spinal adjustment is normal and is likely an indicator that the vertebrae were out of alignment. To understand why this is the case, it is important to first understand some of the basic principles of chiropractic care.

How Chiropractic Care Works

The essential tenet of the chiropractic philosophy is that individual vertebrae that are out of alignment (called sublaxations) can cause problems that affect the entire body. By performing adjustments to the vertebrae, pressure on the spinal cord nerves is released, so proper function can be restored to the body.

What Is that Cracking Sound?

The lubricating fluid within the joints, called synovial fluid, naturally contains dissolved nitrogen gas. If the joint is stretched, such as from a chiropractic adjustment, it will open up the space between the joints. As a result, the normal pressure on the synovial fluid is released and the nitrogen rushes into the widened space, causing the popping sound.

One way to think of this is similar to a bottle of soda. If the soda is tightly bottled, you will not see any of the carbon dioxide bubbles that give soda its fizz. However, if you open the cap, the carbon dioxide gas rushes up, creating the bubbles and the distinctive hissing sound as the bottle is opened, allowing the air in.

Does the Sound Mean the Adjustment Worked?

Studies have shown that not all cases of spinal adjustments result in the cracking sound. In fact, the vertebrae may have been moved back into proper alignment without any sound at all. The space between the vertebrae needs to be opened by approximately 40 percent in order for the popping sound to occur. In cases where there is no sound following an adjustment, it may mean that the space between the vertebrae did not need to be opened by that much in order for them to be put back into proper alignment.

Dr. Nathen Horst wants to reassure prospective patients that, not only is the cracking sound normal, it is not an indicator of damage to the neck or spinal column. In fact, the spinal adjustment is not about the actual pop or crack, but rather about allowing the body to use its own abilities to heal itself.

To find out if a spinal adjustment will benefit you, contact Horst Chiropractic today. We look forward to meeting you!

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