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Can I Crack My Neck Like a Chiropractor?

neck crackNeck pain is one of the most common complaints we see in our practice.

When seeking relief, you may have wondered if you can crack your neck like a chiropractor. The unequivocal answer is NO! Capital letters NO, no less.

While it may be tempting to self-adjust, it’s important to understand the significance of a chiropractic adjustment and the potential risks associated with self-manipulation.

To better understand the chiropractic adjustment, read on! We’ll discuss what a chiropractic adjustment entails, why it produces a distinctive sound, and why it is crucial to consult a professional chiropractor instead of attempting self-adjustments.

What Is a Chiropractic Adjustment?

A chiropractic adjustment is a specialised technique performed by chiropractors to treat various musculoskeletal conditions, including neck pain. The goal of an adjustment is to restore proper alignment and function to the spine and other joints. Here’s what you need to know about chiropractic adjustments:

1.     Evaluation: Before performing an adjustment, a chiropractor will conduct a thorough evaluation of your condition, which may involve assessing your medical history, conducting physical examinations, and possibly ordering diagnostic tests like X-rays. This evaluation helps the chiropractor understand the underlying cause of your neck pain and develop an appropriate treatment plan.

2.     Manual Techniques: Chiropractic adjustments involve applying controlled force or pressure to specific joints in the neck or spine. The chiropractor may use their hands or specialised instruments to deliver precise and targeted adjustments. These techniques aim to restore mobility, reduce inflammation, alleviate pain, and promote overall healing.

3.     Tailored Approach: Chiropractic care is highly individualised. Your chiropractor considers factors such as your age, overall health, and the specific nature of your neck pain when determining the type and intensity of adjustments required. They may also combine adjustments with other therapies like stretching, exercises, or lifestyle recommendations to enhance the healing process.

Why Does an Adjustment Sound Like That?

During a chiropractic adjustment, you may hear a distinctive cracking or popping sound. This sound is known as ‘cavitation’ and we understand that it occurs due to the release of gas bubbles within the joint space. Here’s why it happens:

Joints are surrounded by synovial fluid, which is a special material that lubricates and nourishes them. The fluid contains gases such as oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide. When an adjustment is performed, the joint is temporarily separated, causing a change in pressure. This change allows dissolved gases in the synovial fluid to form bubbles, leading to the characteristic popping sound.

The popping sound is generally a harmless phenomenon and does not indicate any damage to the joint or surrounding tissues. It’s simply the result of a quick change in joint pressure. However, it’s essential to have adjustments performed by a trained chiropractor who can ensure the technique is performed safely and effectively.

Why You Should Never Self-Adjust – Like, NEVER

While it may be tempting to crack your neck or perform self-adjustments, it’s crucial to understand the potential risks involved. Here are a few reasons why self-adjustments should be avoided:

1.     Lack of Expertise: Chiropractors undergo extensive education and training to learn the intricacies of the musculoskeletal system and proper adjustment techniques. Attempting to self-adjust without this knowledge and expertise can lead to ineffective or improper adjustments, potentially worsening your neck pain or causing additional injuries.

2.     Misalignment and Further Damage: Without proper knowledge and expertise, attempting to self-adjust your neck can result in misalignments or improper manipulation of the spinal joints. This can potentially worsen your neck pain and lead to additional injuries. Chiropractors are trained to perform precise and controlled adjustments that target specific areas of concern. Self-adjustments, on the other hand, lack the accuracy and specificity required for safe and effective treatment.

3.     Nerve Damage and Vascular Issues: The neck houses crucial structures such as nerves and blood vessels that are responsible for transmitting signals and supplying oxygen to the brain and other parts of the body. Inadequate knowledge of anatomy and incorrect manipulation during self-adjustments can inadvertently put pressure on these delicate structures, leading to nerve damage or impairing blood flow. Such complications can result in a range of symptoms, including pain, numbness, tingling, and even more serious health consequences.

5.     Underlying Conditions and Unknown Risks: Neck pain can stem from various underlying conditions, such as herniated discs, spinal stenosis, or joint inflammation. Attempting self-adjustments without a proper diagnosis can exacerbate these conditions and potentially worsen your symptoms. Moreover, certain individuals may have pre-existing health conditions or risk factors that make self-adjustments particularly dangerous. Only a qualified chiropractor can assess your specific condition and provide appropriate care tailored to your individual needs.

6.     Lack of Feedback and Assessment: One of the key advantages of seeing a chiropractor is the ability to receive immediate feedback and assessment during the treatment process. Chiropractors have a deep understanding of the body’s biomechanics and can assess your response to adjustments, ensuring that the treatment is safe and effective. Without professional guidance, self-adjustments lack this crucial feedback loop, increasing the risk of improper techniques, excessive force, or even inadvertently ignoring signs of potential complications.

It is essential to prioritise your health and seek professional care from a qualified chiropractor who can provide a thorough evaluation, accurate diagnosis, and appropriate adjustments tailored to your specific needs. By doing so, you can ensure that your neck pain is properly addressed, potential risks are minimized, and you receive the best possible care for your condition.