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The Sweet Sound of Success: Why That Pop in Your Back Feels So Good

By Sara Butler

The Popping Noise

For those new to the world of chiropractic, one of the most unsettling and mysterious things about a chiropractic adjustment is that popping sound you may hear. Is that normal? Should it freak you out?

The body is an amazing meat machine. It does all kinds of things that are a bit mysterious, and we all know it can make some strange sounds. That popping sound you hear during an adjustment? It has a perfectly good explanation.

Your Spine: A Brief History

To understand why your back may sound like a bowl of Rice Krispies during a chiropractic adjustment, you first have to understand the structures involved. Remember that your spine consists of three major components: the spinal cord, the meninges, and the spinal column.

The spinal cord is the bundle of nerves that connect the brain to every other nerve in your body -- it’s kind of important. That’s why it is sheathed and protected by the meninges -- the membranes around the spinal cord, and the spinal column, the collection of 33 bones stacked vertically to help provide a range of motion as well as protection of the spinal cord. Each spinal column bone, or vertebra, has a small, soft disc between it and its next-door neighbor to add more cushion between the bones and space for your spinal nerves to exit the spinal column.

Amazing, right?

Don’t Be Alarmed, The Sound Is Natural!

Though the sound of popping can sometimes be intense when you have your chiropractic adjustment, that sound doesn’t mean anything is breaking, cracking in half, or splintering. It even has its own fancy, Latin-based medical term: crepitus. Why you may experience crepitus has a few explanations.

The first theory is that when your back is adjusted, the squishy facet joints on the outer edge of your spinal bones stretch, allowing synovial fluid inside the space and relieves pressure on the facet joints. When this pressure is released, the fluid turns into a gas and makes that cracking sound you may be worried about.

The second theory also has to do with gas and pressure. Some researchers believe that gasses naturally present, like oxygen and nitrogen, build up in the spaces between joints over time -- especially if you are experiencing any joint dysfunctions. When these joints are stretched, that gas is released, and you get that familiar snap, crackle, or pop.

Why Does It Feel So Good?

As much as you may feel in the dark about those strange popping sounds at the chiropractor, you can’t deny that after they happen you simply feel better. Remember that the firm movements of the chiropractor during an adjustment helps to release pressure, which of course makes you feel good, but there are other explanations as well.

When your joints crack and release, your body also releases endorphins. These chemicals are released by the body to manage pain but they also lead to those familiar feelings of satisfaction when a joint pops.

Of course, there’s a psychological explanation, too. Some people might associate the sound of popping joints with feelings of relief, especially when you’re at the chiropractor’s office.

Are There Risks?

Cracking your back is something that should only be done by a professional. Remember, your chiropractor has spent years studying anatomy, physiology, and the precise movements needed to adjust your spine. If you attempt to do it yourself, there are some serious risks such as:

  • Pinched nerves - If you attempt to adjust your back yourself, doing it too fast or with too much force can lead to pinched nerves that limit your mobility and are quite painful.
  • Muscle strain - If you crack your own back, using too much force can also damage the soft tissue surrounding the joints and lead to muscle strains or even tears.
  • Stretched ligaments - Cracking your own back a lot over time can stretch the ligaments in the back, which makes your spinal column less stable and can even lead to arthritis later in life.

The moral of this story? If you want to experience back cracking, then see the chiropractors at The Joint Chiropractic! And if you’re new to these snaps, crackles, and pops at the chiropractor, it’s nothing to worry over.

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