What Is the Popping Sound During Chiropractic Adjustments?

What Is the Popping Sound During Chiropractic Adjustments?

The popping sound often heard during a chiropractic adjustment (manipulation) is due to a phenomenon called cavitation.

In each of your joints, there’s a capsule that contains synovial fluid. This fluid acts as a lubricant and contains dissolved gases – mainly carbon dioxide. When chiropractors adjust, they manipulate the joint to induce a rapid, small separation of the joint surfaces.

This rapid separation causes a drop in pressure within the joint space. As the pressure in the joint drops, the dissolved gasses in the synovial fluid form tiny bubbles, creating a vacuum. When this vacuum or bubble collapses or pops, it makes the characteristic ‘popping’ or ‘cracking’ sound. This is similar to the sound you hear when you crack your knuckles.

It’s important to note that the sound is not an indicator of the quality or efficacy of the adjustment. An adjustment can still be effective without a noticeable sound. Conversely, the sound alone doesn’t necessarily mean that the adjustment was needed or improved a condition. The critical factor in chiropractic care is the improvement of function and reduction of pain rather than the production of a sound.