Crack!! The relieving sound of an adjustment (spinal manipulation) may be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of visiting the Chiropractor. Contrary to popular belief, the cracking sound is not due to bones moving around or being “put into place”, but rather due to a physical phenomenon called “cavitation”.
This occurs within the joint, where a special liquid nourishes the joints’ surfaces called “synovial fluid”. As with all fluid, it contains chemicals such as nitrogen and oxygen. When the joint is stretched during an adjustment, pressure differences are created inside the joint, converting these chemicals from a liquid to a gaseous form. Gas cavities are thus created within the joint and associated with a popping sound. It must be noted that the popping sound does not indicate the quality of the adjustment – joint movement may still occur without the presence of cavitation.
Spinal manipulation is the forte of chiropractic treatment and, without a doubt, the most valued tool in the chiropractor’s arsenal. An adjustment or manipulation is a procedure in which a chiropractor – a trained specialist – uses their hands or a small instrument to apply a controlled force to a spinal joint. The goal of this procedure is to improve spinal motion and improve your body’s physical function.
These adjustments correct the function of hypo-mobile joints, in other words, joints that have become stiff and stuck. Joint restrictions may result in painful episodes of back and neck related syndromes and adversely affect the state of your health. Joints can become restricted due to postural strain, compensation, stress, age, trauma, poor nutrition and abnormal development. It is the chiropractor’s job to examine the spine, of which there are 33 vertebrae, and to analyze its motion integrity to diagnose any joint restrictions that may be present. These lesions may only be detected by a diagnostic technique known as “motion palpation”. It is not possible to identify these functional lesions on X – rays or other imaging studies in the same way.
Manipulation has various biomechanical and neurological effects. As the adjustment is applied, it causes separation and decompression of the spinal joints. It breaks up fibrous adhesions, decreases muscle activity and increases the joints range of motion.
Manipulation activates fibroblasts, which are critical for healing and repair and regulate the balance between the autonomic nervous system. This encourages a balance between your sympathetic state – your fight and flight response -and your parasympathetic state – which is your rest and digest state.
Manipulation also activates certain neurological pathways, which results in pain modulation, and can drive neuroplastic changes within the brain.
Getting adjusted also benefits physical performance by increasing maximum voluntary muscle contraction and increasing cortical drive. Manipulation also enhances fatigue resistance.
To achieve the best possible outcome for your treatment, it is imperative to follow a suitable treatment plan regarding the rate and frequency of treatment. In addition to treatment, a home care program consisting of rehabilitative exercises and postural correction will enhance and prolong the effects of spinal manipulation.
Multiple studies have concluded that spinal manipulation is safe and effective when performed by a trained specialist. Chiropractic care is an excellent treatment option for any mechanical back and neck related issues. Following the rationale of prevention over cure, regular chiropractic care is a great way to maintain your body functioning optimally and prevent injury.