Have you ever wondered why our joints pop? I tell patients that our joints have a certain allowed range of motion and when we take the joint past this barrier (into what is known as the paraphysiological space), often a pop or crack will be heard. What happens when the joint enters this new range of motion is it gaps the adjacent bones for a split-second and a nitrogen gas is released. The release of this gas is producing the audible you hear. Typically, my patients come in and are looking “to get popped”. However, whether or not a joint “pops” does not necessarily indicate that the adjustment “worked.”
When I perform an adjustment, it is always directed into the joint(s) that are restricted in motion. However, one person’s joint restriction may feel totally different than another’s. Said another way, some people’s joints have greater allowed motion than others. As we age, our spines have a greater likelihood to begin to degenerate. Often our intervertebral disc height decreases, ligaments calcify, and bones begin to take on different shapes. These changes are commonly referred to as the “wear and tear” of our body. Wear and tear makes our joints “tighter” thus creating less of a potential gapping or “pop” to occur. Also, after several treatments in the office, and followed at home recommendations, I usually notice less of a popping noise because the adjustment is holding better and longer than it previously was.
So don’t become a crack addict!
Did you know cracking your own spine may be creating MORE of a problem for you? “But Doc it always feels good when I pop my own neck!?” Yeah, you may be getting a brief feeling of euphoria, but it is usually accompanied with creating further dysfunction in your spine in the long run. There’s a reason it continues to feel the way it does even after your self-adjustments…When you can crack your own spine, often you are popping joints that are already moving well! This can create further dysfunction in the joints that were previously restricted and may lead to an increased likelihood of pain and injury! For example, usually disc injuries are due to excessive movement and a lack of stability!
As a rule of thumb, I tell patients to avoid popping their own necks and low back. The upper/mid back or thoracic spine is usually okay in my opinion to foam roll or create some popping with. If you have been popping your own body for some time and are still in pain, or if you want to avoid a future of dysfunction that leads to pain, feel free to give us a call and schedule your first appointment at 217-525-2035!