What happens when you hear a "crack" in your spine?

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Bottom Line:

You turn your head or bend down to lift something and “CRACK”! What is it? Did you injure something?  The first time that happens can be terrifying. Well, you don’t need to worry. That cracking sound is probably not a broken bone. It typically occurs in the facet joints, or knuckles, of your spinal column and it's completely normal. Your facet joints are designed to help your spine move through a full range of motion.

 

Why it Matters:

The facets are little joints on the back side of your spine. Similar to your knuckles, they have a small capsule around them for lubrication and support. When a facet joint is stretched open, gas within the joint is released, making a crunch or cracking sound. The release of gas is perfectly normal and happens because of the negative pressure in the joint. Sometimes adhesions can occur in the joint making it painful to move. That is why after a chiropractic adjustment many people feel better and have an improved range of motion. Adjustments help the facet joints move more naturally with fewer restrictions.  

 

- Cracks and pops in your back and neck are typically caused by the release of gas within the joint (like a knuckle)

 

- Adhesions in the joints of your spine can restrict your range of motion and contribute to degenerative changes


- Adjustments reduce the adhesions in the fact joints resulting in pain relief and an improved range of motion

 

Next Steps:

While many chiropractic techniques create a “cracking” or “crunching” type sound- not all do. Low-speed techniques also improve the motion of the facet joints, sometimes without any sound at all. And here’s a tip to share with your friends- stubborn headaches are frequently caused by irritated facet joints. If you know someone who suffers from headaches and works on a computer most of the day- their facet joints may be to blame. Share this paper with them and let them know a chiropractic adjustment may be just what they need!

 

Science Source:

Effects of side-posture positioning and side-posture adjusting on the lumbar zygapophysial joints as evaluated by magnetic resonance imaging: a before and after study with randomization. JMPT 2000. Neurophysiological effects of spinal manipulation. The Spine Journal 2002.