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Questions and answers about joint cracking

What happens when a chiropractor breaks your joints?

The “cracking” sound of a joint occurs for almost the same reason that a champagne cork explodes.

Champagne is a liquid that has a lot of dissolved gas. The gas remains dissolved in the liquid just because it is bottled Pressure. Once the pressure is relieved by pulling on the cork, a clicking sound occurs as dissolved gases precipitate out of solution.

A joint also has fluid, synovial fluid, tightly repressed by the ligaments and the joint capsule. Like all body tissues, synovial fluid has dissolved gases. These gases are derived from the air you breathe, primarily oxygen and nitrogen.

One of the effects of a chiropractic adjustment can be to open up the joint space. The fit relieves pressure on the joint and, like a bottle of champagne, gases rush out of the solution and cause a popping sound.

An X-ray taken immediately after an adjustment will show a small hollow pocket in the joint that is now filled with these gases.

The technical term for popping noise that occurs with a setting is crepitation.

What happens to oxygen and nitrogen once they form a pocket within the joint space?

The gases gradually dissolve back into the surrounding fluids over the next twenty minutes or so.

The gases continue to make room in the joint until they are completely reabsorbed. This phenomenon extends the therapeutic action of the adjustment for many minutes beyond the moment of adjustment.

Is joint cracking (crepitus) good?


When skillfully performed by a chiropractic practitioner, the audible release that occurs with adjustment is considered to indicate a beneficial response to treatment.

Does a setting have to create crackles to be effective?

No. Crepitus occurs when the adjustment suddenly creates more joint space. There are many other ways that adjustments improve joint function. Among the possible beneficial effects, adjustments can:

  • increase joint space gradually rather than suddenly

  • release restriction of joint play without increasing overall joint space

  • create new feedback from nerve receptors in the joint

What are the specifics of chiropractic methods that tend to create crackles?

Providing a chiropractic adjustment requires a high level of technical skill and experience.

The two main characteristics of a setting technique that make it more prone to crackles are paraphysiological movement Y speed.

Paraphysiological movement refers to movement of the joint in a direction for which it is designed, but which cannot be achieved by your body’s own muscular control system.

For example, you can pull the tip of your finger (and maybe create crackles). By pulling on the tip of your finger, you have slightly separated the bones of the little finger from each other. The finger joints are physiologically designed to adapt to this movement. But it never happens by activating the muscles in the hands.

Tea speed of an adjustment is also significant. In fact, some chiropractic doctors believe that speed is the most important characteristic of an adjustment. There are two main reasons why speed is believed to be important:

  • nullifies the body’s reflex muscle response that might otherwise counteract the fit

  • It allows the force of the maneuver to be transmitted directly to the joint rather than being dissipated by the fluids in which the joint (like all body components) is floating.

Is it harmful to break your own joints?

Probably not.

Can you make too many adjustments?

Probably not. There is no evidence that repeated chiropractic adjustments cause any harm. In fact, regular chiropractic treatment can be beneficial in minimizing the potential for arthritis.

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