Chiropractic adjustments work by restoring the spine’s natural mobility in the vertebral column in the neck mid lower back sacrum and pelvis.
What is the cracking and popping sound during a chiropractic adjustment?
The cracking and popping heard during a chiropractic adjustment is caused by the capsules around the vertebral facet joints when they being reset. The vertebral capsules contain synovial joint fluid and gases. Adjusting the spinal vertebrae restores the synovial fluid pressure and releases a build up in gases that may cause pressure, pain, inflammation and tightness in and around the spine and muscles.
As the synovial joint pressure decreases during a chiropractic adjustment gas is released. This causes a cavitation. The cavitation is what you hear when there is a cracking or popping in the neck or back during a chiropractic adjustment.
Joint capsules around the facets can also become entrapped causing sharp sometimes severe pain in the neck, mid and lower back. Joint capsules fibers are very sensitive to pain and when entrapped in the spinal facet joints can become a very bothersome condition that can be addressed with chiropractic adjustments successfully.
The re-setting of the vertebral facet joints can take irritation and inflammation off of compressed nerves that are pressed on around the spine and relieve pain generated in ligaments and muscles which are irritated by vertebral joints not functioning with full mobility.
The chiropractic adjusting of the vertebral segments may also take irritation off surrounding nerves, The picture below shows an example of this:
This picture was published in a public journal in 2002 from the journal Spine:27. 2459-2466. The Effects of Side Posture Positioning and Spinal Adjusting on the Lumbar Z Joints. Figure copied from Cramer, et. al (2002)
You can see the example on the left above the R which symbolizes the right side of the body. These are two axial slices of a lumbar MRI looking down on the spinal cord, discs, nerves and vertebrae before and after a chiropractic adjustment on the same patients.
The white areas circled represent the spinal nerve roots which exit the vertebrae in between the facet joints and the lumbar discs. When this area becomes compressed and irritated as it is in the photo on the right side it can cause significant low back pain, sciatica, nerve pain, leg pain and even lead to weakness in the legs and chronic numbness and pain in the lower back, thighs, and feet.
The figure on the below is an MRI taken right after a spinal adjustment was administered to the lower back on the same patient. As you can see there is a significant opening in the area in which the spinal nerve root comes out on the right side.
When vertebral joints experience dysfunction and inflammation it also affects of the spinal discs which can become irritated and inflamed. The cracking, popping and realigning of the spinal vertebral column can take unnecessary weight distributions off of the spinal discs and lead to a decrease in pain and increase in function and mobility.
In summary, Chiropractic adjustments have been used for over 100 years and an effective ways to manage musculoskeletal pain with minimal side effects in comparison to many medications such as NSAIDS and Opiates.
Chiropractic adjustments are covered by most insurances, Medicare and Medicaid.
Here is an example of a recent chiropractic adjustment and physical therapy performed in my office on a patient experiencing neck and back pain from her job….Enjoy the cracks and pops!
If you live in the Raleigh, NC area and would like to book an appointment, book online here .
Dr. Jeffrey Gerdes, D.C.