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What's that noise?

Updated: May 2, 2022

There is a fascination with chiropractic adjustments all over social media and that “cracking” noise we hear. That noise, which is called a cavitation, triggers a feeling of ‘awe’ or ‘ew’ when watching/hearing these videos. I personally LOVE the sound of a cavitation; but, let me clear the air and explain what a cavitation is and where the noise is coming from – and no... your bones are not breaking!

Let’s first talk about the joints of the body

Joints are the meeting of two bones to provide movement in the body. Some examples of joints are found at the elbow, knee, ankle, hips and back (the picture below shows an example of a facet joint in the back [highlighted in green]).

Joints can be divided into three categories based off of how much they move:

· Immovable

· Slightly moveable

· Freely movable (aka. Synovial joints)

neck pain diagram

These three joint categories are different in function, but equally important in keeping our skeleton intact and our ability to move.

Synovial joints are the joint type that provide the most mobility in the body, such as: bending, twisting, walking, grabbing, etc. There are six different types of synovial joints (saddle, hinge, pivot, condyloid, ball & socket, planar) each surrounded in a fluid filled membrane called synovial fluid. This fluid provides lubrication to the joint as it moves and functions as a shock absorber against impacts.

Our joints also move with our muscles, since muscles attach to our bones via tendons.

What does this have to do with chiropractic?

Movement is not a simple action. It requires the involvement of our joints, muscles AND nervous system. When a joint is not moving within its full range of motion this can be a result of inflammation in that area, which we term a restriction. If there is a joint restriction, the muscles around that joint will also not move through their full range of motion. This lack of movement in general can i

nitiate feelings of discomfort, like: burning, pinching, dull/achy, etc. The most common example is when you wake up in the morning and you have a pain in your neck from sleeping improperly – that is a joint/muscular restriction causing a lack of movement and discomfort in that area.

A chiropractor identifies restrictions in the joint(s) and will restore movement to the joint(s) and muscle(s) via an adjustment. As a byproduct of the adjustment individuals may hear that wonderful (or not so wonderful) cavitation noise.

Now, let’s talk about the cavitation noise.

The cavitation noise produced during an adjustment has to do with the synovial fluid in the joint.

As I mentioned previously, synovial fluid is a lubricating fluid around the joint, which also provides shock absorption protection. Within the synovial fluid there are gasses (nitrogen, oxygen & carbon dioxide) that are rapidly released when an adjustment occurs. This release of gas is what creates that cavitation noise that many hear when getting adjusted.

That’s it!

The cavitation noise that many people love or fear is just the sound of gas release from the joint. This noise can be compared to the opening of a pop can - same idea!

Do you like the noise of getting an adjustment? Let me know in the comments below!

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