Belvidere Chiropractic Center Belvidere New Jersey Family Chiropractor Dr Jon Heins

What is the popping sound when you get adjusted?

FAQ-PopIf you happened to have read my last Frequently Asked Question post I mentioned that back in January, I started an on going Frequently Asked Questions series. And after a short break from it in February, two weeks ago, I posted the Frequently Asked Question: Can You Get Adjusted While Getting Physical Therapy?

Since my staff and I get a lot of questions from either our existing patients or people calling or e-mailing us through our contact page and we are happy to answer them for you. However, since many of you have the same or similar questions I have decided to write some posts on some of the more common questions we frequently get on a day to day basis about Chiropractic Care in general and the services we provide here at Belvidere Chiropractic Center and here’s another one we get quite a lot…

What is the popping sound when you get adjusted?

The popping sound when you get adjusted is called cavitation, and is exactly the same thing that happens when you crack your knuckles. Wikipedia’s definition states that: “Cavitation is the formation of vapor bubbles of a flowing liquid in a region where the pressure of the liquid falls below its vapor pressure.” Pretty much the same thing that happens when you open a can of soda or as some might say ‘pop’.

The joints in the back of your spine (just like in your knuckles and most of the other joints in your body) have fluid in them which lubricates and supplies nutrients to the joint’s cartilage and has gases dissolved in solution, just like your favorite soda pop. When the joint’s space is increased during an adjustment and just like when you open that can of soda containing carbonated fluid it makes a popping sound.

Now, not every adjustment results in a popping sound, in fact some chiropractic adjusting techniques never cavitate the joint. I personally use a diversified technique that frequently causes joint cavitation and a low force drop table technique that never does. The point is, while a ‘pop’ is sometimes felt when giving an adjustment (which feels really good when it does happen) it is not an indicator of whether or not the misaligned bone was moved correctly to relieve nerve pressure, which is why, not only are you analyzed prior to your adjustment you are also checked again after, in order to determine if the proper correction did or didn’t occur, and obviously if it wasn’t corrected properly the first time another adjustment is then done immediately. Now if the joint happened to cavitate the first time (even though it didn’t correct the misalignment as evidenced on your post analysis) it won’t cavitate again.


Simple because it takes at least 15 minutes for the gases in the joint fluid to go back into solution. And considering there is pressure on your nerve, which controls and coordinates all of your body’s other systems, you would probably agree with me that, waiting 15 minutes just to get another ‘pop’ doesn’t sound like a very good idea.

If you want a more technical explanation of what happens during a chiropractic adjustment see: The Basics of an Adjustment a post by James Morosky over at his blog: a Pennsylvania State University graduate and current Doctor of Chiropractic Student at National University of Health Sciences.

I hope you enjoy this continual FAQ series and would love it if you could suggest any other future FAQ’s simply by either, leaving a comment below, sending an e-mail via this site’s contact page, or by contacting through Twitter.

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