What is the Popping Sound?

Posted August 2, 2015 @ 4:21pm | by Kori Mortenson

About that "popping" noise. What is it, exactly?

The adjustment of a joint may result in the release of a gas bubble between the joints, which makes a popping sound. The same thing occurs when you "crack" your knuckles. The noise is caused by the change of pressure within the joint, which results in gas bubbles being released. There is usually minimal, is any, discomfort involved.

A good anology would be popping the top off of a can of soda. Gases naturally build up in a joint space like bubbles. When an adjustment is performed, the gas is released and you may hear an "audible" or popping noise. While many people enjoy hearing this sound, the sound itself does not indicate the quality of the adjustment received. Often just reintroducing motion back into a joint will start the healing process. This is why adjusting instruments are successful too.

Oh, and by the way, as far as neck adjustments go, the sound you hear can be much louder because your ears are much closer to the source. Don't let it scare you!

The release of gas that makes the popping sound is called a cavitation. Spinal joints, called synovial joints, produce a fluid that lubricates the joint for movement and nourishes the cartilage around the joint. The gas, a mixture of oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide, is a byproduct formed in the production of synovial fluid. When a joint is stretched, gapped or opened up, this gas is forced out and releases suddenly. That is when you hear the audible "popping" sound - just like the sudden release of gas when you open a can of soda.

Most people are unfamiliar with the mechanism of the popping sound that occurs during a chiropractic adjustment. Some people are scared or worry that it is causing harm or that it will hurt or think it is just "gross." I have had people ask if it was the sound of a bone breaking. The answer of course is a resounding NO! If it was, I wouldn't have any practice members.

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