Mythbusters: Popping and Cracking Joints Explained
Whether it’s your knees that pop and creak as you stand up or the crrrracccckkk of your back as you’re being adjusted by a chiropractor If you’ve ever had a chiropractic adjustment, chances are you have heard the cracks and pops coming from your joints. Though, these sounds aren’t relegated to the chiropractor. Indeed, maybe your knees crack when you stand up, your jaw pops on occasion, or you crack your knuckles. The majority of the time, these cracks and pops are not a concern.
So what’s causing your joints to sound like a bowl full of Rice Krispies?
Myth #1: It’s Caused by Bones Popping in and out of Place/Snapping Tissue/Cracking Bones/Etc.
Every joint in our body, where ligaments connect one bone to another, is full of a lubricating fluid called synovial fluid. This liquid substance protects our bones from grinding against each other, nourishes the cartilage, and keeps our joints moving smoothly. This synovial fluid does contain some dissolved gases — nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and oxygen — and when the ligaments are stretched or adjusted, the resulting pressure change in the synovial fluid cause gas bubbles to be released. The cracking and popping sound is due to these gas bubbles bursting.
Think of it this way: the cracks and pops are the sounds our joints make when they “fart.”
Myth #2: Popping Your Joints Is Harmful and Will Cause Arthritis
Despite old wives’ tales, cracking your knuckles or joints is harmless and will not cause arthritis. One doctor went so far as to study himself. For his entire life, he only cracked the knuckles on one hand, and then x-rayed both decades later hands to see if there were any differences. There were none. The sounds are natural and are simply the side effect of body chemistry. In fact, it may be a sign of healthy joints.
If the popping or cracking results in discomfort, pain, or swelling, however, this is not normal. Hav it looked at by a chiropractor or physician.
Myth #3: The Pops Means a Chiropractic Adjustment Worked/No Sounds Means It Didn’t Work
Studies have found that an audible pop or cracking sound does not necessarily mean that a chiropractic adjustment was successful. Depending on the joint being manipulated and the technique the chiropractor uses, there may not be enough movement to constitute the pressure change required for the nitrogen bubbles to burst.
However, if you do hear popping, it does not automatically mean the adjustment was successful either. It is impossible to detect where the pop came from. Indeed, it may come from a joint that is not even the focus.
The popping sound, however, may have some therapeutic benefits…psychologically. The pops and cracks actually have the “placebo effect”. Patients who expect to hear popping and cracking tend to feel better if they heard the expected noises. When patients expect sounds but hear none, they report not feeling as much relief. There is something psychologically satisfying and reaffirming for a patient to hear those sounds, but physically, it doesn’t make a difference.
Learn More About Popping and Cracking Joints
So, from now on, when you hear your joints cracking and popping, remember they are just “joint farts”. And during your next chiropractor visit, don’t feel scammed if you don’t hear any noises. Particularly if you are adjusted using the ArthroStim, it is very likely you will not hear any pops or cracks. The chiropractors at Sonnier Chiropractic Clinic use a range of techniques to adjust your spine and other musculoskeletal features, and they have the expertise to tell when an adjustment has been successful — pop or not pop. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.