Many people I see for the first time are scared of the cracking sound during a chiropractic adjustment. They somehow think it’s the sound of bones crashing together or something else dreadful happening.
What exactly is that popping sound?
A group of scientists performed a study is 2015 hilariously dubbed the “pull my finger study” to answer this popular question. The results were published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE.
The animated image above is an MRI of a finger joint being pulled until it “cracks,” taken during the experiment.
What Makes The Cracking Sound During A Chiropractic Adjustment
According to the lead scientist, the cracking sound is caused by the formation bubble within the synovial fluid that lubricates the space between joints.
“As the joint surfaces suddenly separate, there is no more fluid available to fill the increasing joint volume, so a cavity is created and that event is what’s associated with the sound.” – Greg Kawchuk, PhD.
The images below show the before and after images of the subject cracking his index finger.
Notice the yellow arrow on the right side pointing to the dark spot between the finger joints.
So what does this have to do with the cracking sound during a chiropractic adjustment?
It’s the same phenomenon. The joint space opens, a vacuum is formed, and you hear a crack.
Is It Necessary For My Chiropractor To Crack Me?
The important thing to remember is that the popping or cracking sound during a chiropractic adjustment has little to do with the adjustment itself.
It’s simply an effect of opening a joint space far enough to create the cavity.
An adjustment can occur completely absent of this noise and sometimes does.
Similarly, many people hear their spines pop when they’re going about their daily lives and think that perhaps something bad happened. Rest assured that the noise does not mean anything is wrong, especially if it isn’t accompanied by pain.