Q: “What is the cracking or popping sound that comes from your joints when you crack your own joints or when you receive a chiropractic adjustment?”
A: Where a bone meets another bone, you have a joint. In each joint there’s a small pool of synovial fluid (thick gel like fluid) that provides a cushion between each end of your bones. It helps decrease bone on bone forces in your joints. The fluid is located inside of a ligamentous joint capsule. There are three gases inside the synovial fluid, oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide.
The pressure inside the fluid is so great that the gasses remain in liquid form. However, when you pull the joint apart (like pulling your knuckle or fingers apart), the joint capsule stretches apart and you create a low pressure within the synovium. This change in atmospheric pressure causes your liquid to turn into small gaseous bubbles which then pop almost immediately once they’re formed. Some of the bubbles popping is the sound you hear!! It takes 20 minutes to produce another joint “pop” because it takes the body that much time to for the bubbles to turn back into complete liquid.
Q: “Does cracking your own joints cause arthritis?”
A: A physician named Donald Unger did a self-experiment in which he “cracked” the knuckles on his left hand twice a day for over 60 years while not cracking the fingers on his right hand. He took x-rays every decade and at the end of the entire experiment there was no evidence of arthritis in either hand. Another study in 1990 did however show a decrease in grip strength and an increase in finger swelling in hands that participated in long term, regular knuckle cracking. There’s much criticism of this study because there were no follow up studies on it.
In my clinical experience and in the laws of physiology, a tissue that is constantly stretched will eventually adapt to the demands of the repetitive force placed on it. In other words, if you continuously stretch your knuckles/fingers, the joint capsule and surrounding tissues will develop a hypermobility. This is “bad” if you want or need greater stability or strength in your hands.
Q: “Will I experience any bad side effects if I’ve never been adjusted and decide to receive one?”
A: The most common side effect that SOME people experience when they’ve never been adjusted before would be a case of delayed onset muscle soreness. This is a mild to moderate soreness that exists in the joint adjusted due to small micro tears in the tissue. These tears occur in certain types of tissue, such as scar tissue or tissue that hasn’t moved a certain way in a long time. It’s just like the soreness you receive after exercising at the gym if you haven’t exercised a particular body part or muscle group in a long time. An example would be squatting in the gym for the first time in months. You can count on being sore in your glutes and thighs the next few days due to small micro tears in the musculature. The soreness can last anywhere from 24-72 hours maximum. Discomfort levels depend entirely on the individual and their ability to tolerate soreness.
There are plenty of ways to decrease the soreness and accelerate the healing process (icing the joint, moving the joint, exercising the joint, natural anti-inflammatory foods, etc.). Interestingly enough, chiropractors have the lowest malpractice insurance than any other health care provider, including dentists! This means that insurance companies calculate the risk of a chiropractor being lower than all other health care options out there!
Q: “Chiropractic can’t really help my soft tissue injury or problem because they only adjust bone right?”
A: Specific chiropractic adjustments put a corrective force into the JOINT. A joint is defined as a meeting place between two bones and ALL the tendons, ligaments, fascia and soft tissue affecting that joint. Therefore, when you receive a specific chiropractic adjustment, we are addressing the soft tissue AND the “bone” by treating the joint.
Furthermore, soft tissue is really simple in terms of function, it either contracts or relaxes, end of story. What tells it to relax or contract is the nervous system (brain and spinal cord). If the nerves in the spine are irritated or impinged upon due to inflammation, they will send signals to the muscles that they control saying, “contract” or “tighten” or “spasm”. An adjustment is designed to take the stress off the nerves so that the nervous system can send new messages saying, “relax” or “loosen”.
Lastly, the nervous system regulates how much and how often the body’s soft tissues receive nutrition and blood flow. Therefore, if the nerve irritation is relieved the nerve can now fully and optimally supply the soft tissue with the nutrients and blood flow required to maintain its health. In summary, the nervous system controls the tension of soft tissues and chiropractic adjustments influence the nervous system.
Q: “Do chiropractors actually move bones?”
A: NO. Chiropractors contact the soft tissue that lies over the bone and put a specific, corrective vector of force into that joint. The joint moves millimeters of a distance for a split second during the impulse from the chiropractor. There are a lot of tissue layers separating the doctor’s fingers from the actual bone (skin, fascia, muscle, fat, etc.).
The true “moving” of the joint occurs later in the day by the body/nervous system if the adjustment had the correct force vectors applied to it. The body does all the “moving” and healing, not the chiropractor.
Q: “I don’t really believe in chiropractic!”
A: It is a good thing that chiropractic is NOT a religion, so it doesn’t matter whether or not you “believe” in it. If you go to pubmed.com and type in chiropractic you’ll find over 7100 peer reviewed, published research articles proving chiropractic as a successful method for treating musculoskeletal injuries in the spine and extremities, along with a myriad of other ailments such as GERD, colic, torticollis, etc.
The reality is that chiropractic is proven to work and will continue to work whether or not you “believe” it. Most people who say it doesn’t work tend to have had an injury which was not chiropractic at the root of its cause, therefore, when they sought out chiropractic care, it didn’t fix it. Then that same person decides that chiropractic doesn’t work because they tried it for a non-chiropractic injury and it didn’t help. Most chiropractors will put you through a very brief trial of chiropractic care to see if your injury or ailment is a chiropractic problem at the root of it.
Q: “How long will it take me to get well? My friend went to the chiro and she got better in three visits!”
A: Comparing one’s personal injury or ailment to their friends is ALWAYS an unfair comparison. The length of time it takes for someone to heal completely is dependent upon the following:
1. Age of the patient (younger bodies tend to heal quicker)
2.Degree to which the lack of joint motion has existed in your body (physiological changes occur around immobilized joints, ex=cast that has been on someone’s arm for months)
3. Amount of vitality the person has in reserve (the vitality is what does the healing or “curing”)
4. Time that person will allow for recovery and healing to take place (tissue strains and sprains will generally take 6-8 weeks to fully heal)
5. The ability of the chiropractor to correctly analyze the case, pick the joint that NEEDS the adjustment, and deliver the correct direction of motion into the joint.
Q: “What do chiropractic adjustments do that exercise can’t?”
A: In the realm of physiology there are layers or levels of movement. Exercise takes place in an active range of motion (ROM), stretching in passive ROM, and an adjustment occurs in what’s known as the paraphysiological space.
In order to compare how effective each treatment is, one must first understand what the problem being treated is:
Chiropractors are experts at finding disruptions in normal biomechanical joint movement. These disruptions to movement are called fixations or restrictions. At any given time in the body there are numerous, mild joint restrictions occurring that our bodies can abolish and restore on their own.
As chiropractors, we concern ourselves with the significant restrictions / fixations that the body needs help with and cannot restore on its own. These restrictions are what cause a myriad of symptoms throughout the body (pain, radiating pain, aches, headaches, migraines, spasms, etc.). These joint restrictions are very specific and require precise vectors of force in order to be optimally restored.
--Adjustments vs. exercise:
Adjustments are delivered to the exact joint that needs motion and in the exact vector of motion that is needed whereas exercise typically involves numerous joints at once which makes it very difficult to isolate certain joints for movement restoration, especially if you have a joint compensating for the lack of motion in the injured joint.
Adjustments occur in the paraphysiological space which means they have the opportunity to heal ALL issues occurring in the active, passive and paraphysiolgoical level of the joint whereas exercise only has the opportunity to correct issues arising in the active ROM level of the joint.
Adjustments address the joint directly as they do not require the patient to move or contract their muscles whereas exercise requires muscles to move and contract so the muscle gets directed primarily and the joint receives less attention.
Adjustments have the ability to address moderate to severe joint restrictions because the depth of the thrust whereas exercise is limited to addressing only mild joint restrictions.
Adjustments require zero patient athleticism or coordination in order to start the healing process whereas exercise demands the patient know how to use their body correctly and in isolation which is challenging even for top athletes.
***Keep in mind that exercise or stretching may decrease or even abolish the pain signals that are coming from your brain, however, that just because those disappear doesn’t mean that the joint is moving properly or that the tissue around the joint has healed optimally.
Q: “Chiropractic adjustments are great and all but does my 9-year-old child really need them?”
A: First of all, one must understand that aside from a chance of mild delayed onset muscle soreness, there’s no inherent risk of receiving a chiropractic adjustment during childhood. Since chiropractic was created, research has failed to prove that any damage occurs inside the body after an adjustment.
Every single child regardless of age or demographic is susceptible to loss of joint range of motion anywhere in their body the same way they would be susceptible to cavities in their teeth, diseases in their bodies, fractures in their bones, scoliosis in their spines, strains or sprains in their muscles, torticollis in their necks, or viruses/bacteria in their immune systems.
The anatomy of a child is the exact same as an adult minus the increased flexibility and cartilage in the growth plates. Therefore, when we adjust a child, significantly less force and depth is used on the joint. A child is not invincible and should be thought of as a clean slate that starts out free of damage. The fact that they are a clean slate of health, demands extra precaution be taken to ensure that the child doesn’t develop persistent or severe musculoskeletal issues in their body. Aging is damage unrepaired so if the child develops enough unrepaired damage in childhood, adolescence is spent battling “new” injuries and breakdowns in tissue health.
Another example would be scoliosis. At some point at a very young age the spine of a child starts to slowly misalign, several joints at a time. The number one key to prevent scoliosis is early detection! The same principle goes for prevention of issues in the joints of the body, early detection and removal through chiropractic.
Lastly, degeneration of the joint and the IVD’s in the spine start during the second decade of life (10 years old through 20 years old). Chiropractic is perfectly capable of reversing degenerative changes and even better at preventing them!