Specific Adjustment vs. Cracking Your Own Back
It may sound the same and sometimes feel the same, too. In fact, sometimes when you crack your own back or neck it may feel better temporarily.
So, what’s the difference? It’s HUGE!
First, many people put a lot of emphasis on the “cracking” sound which has no bearing on whether or not a chiropractic adjustment was successful. However, it does seem to be a reassuring sound to people that something has been accomplished. It makes sense that when bending a certain way and hearing a “pop” people will assume something of significance has happened in their spine.
What’s That Sound?
The sound you hear is called a cavitation and is the sound of gas escaping from the joint as it is opened or gapped. Our goal as chiropractors isn’t to open a joint enough to make a sound, but rather restore normal structure and function to a joint with a very specific adjustment. It just so happens that many times as we are making that correction to the spine that it opens the joints of the vertebra enough to cause a cavitation.
Many times, a correction can be made without enough force or movement to gap the joint. Usually, what we see is that the joints that people are “cracking” themselves are joints that surround the actual problem, which can lead to them becoming hypermobile (moving too much). The reason they are moving too much is because the one with the problem isn’t moving enough and your spine is trying to make up for the lost motion by allowing other joints around it to move a little more than usual. These hypermobile joints are typically easy to get a good “crack” out of.
Why Does It Feel Good?
The most common reason people crack their own back is because it offers some sort of relief. The reason is when you crack your own neck or back, along with the release of nitrous oxide gas from the joint, you are also stimulating sensory receptors that respond to mechanical pressure or distortion and override pain receptors. You also release endorphins, which will give you a brief sense of euphoria, making you believe you have cured your problem. Unfortunately, the pain will likely return about 20 minutes later and you will feel the need to continue to self-pop every 20 minutes for relief. Over time, this makes the joints hypermobile and therefore more difficult to maintain stability.
Cracking your own spine may feel good, it doesn’t mean it’s doing you any good.
The feeling of the needing to constantly “pop” your neck or back is probably a good indicator that you have an underlying problem that needs to be corrected by a chiropractor.
One of the biggest differences between cracking your own back and getting a specific chiropractic adjustment is just that, it’s specific. A Structural Chiropractor is looking specifically for that one vertebra or joint that is not functioning properly. When this occurs this can lead to secondary issues like back or neck pain, sciatica, numbness & tingling, postural distortions, etc. Once they find the problem area(s) they use a specific amount of force at a specific angle to make a gentle correction.
The techniques we utilize at Keystone Chiropractic are based on this specificity not only in how we adjust the spine but also how we analyze and examine the spine to find out exactly where the primary problem is located.
While it might feel good to find the biggest guy in the room and have him bear hug you or have someone walk on your back, you’re typically just working around an underlying problem and putting off correcting it. The “pop” may sound nice, but fixing the underlying problem for good with a structural chiropractor is a lot nicer for your body.