“I can crack my own back.” “My buddy at the gym cracks my back.” “My coach/trainer cracks my back.” A couple times every month, I have a new patient come in with one of these lines as a reason for never having visited a chiropractor. Now they’re suffering intense pain and seek professional help. It’s easy to think of chiropractors as back crackers or bone setters, but this really has very little to do with our work. In fact, we focus on the nervous system and improving balance in the body. Many chiropractors, myself included, often work without cracking at all. I care little about cracking; my focus is on improving the nervous system’s response and muscle tone and I use Applied Kinesiology and Chiropractic to do so. Although I pay it little attention, cracking warrants a word of caution. Untrained, aimless cracking can be risky because too much cracking at the same spot can cause instability at that spot and exacerbate whatever underlying problem exists. Although the crack sometimes makes you feel better short term, it cumulatively can cause you greater problems than whatever is making you want to crack your back in the first place. It’s important, and easier in the long run, to find out why the body is locking up instead of letting your gym buddy just crack away — it’s not uncommon that one of these untrained cracking sessions causes a big problem that brings people into my office cursing in pain. Just as many associate the back crack with chiropractors and believe they can give themselves competent care for free by cracking their own backs, there are many people who fear coming into my practice because they don’t want me to crack their backs. At the end of our first visit, some patients ask, “You didn’t really crack my back at all. How do I feel so much better? My last chiropractor cracked loads of stuff and I never felt this good.” The reason is— get ready for it— the pop has no value. A recent study supports previous research finding that audible pop sounds that often accompany adjustment do not relate to clinical success, reduction in pain, or changes in the nervous system. This is a cool study because they adjusted the same spot on everyone (obviously, not everyone needs the same adjustment) and they were able to monitor changes in the nervous system using pupillometry which evaluates changes in the pupil to indicate nervous system changes.
(photo from the JMPT study) The study concludes that the pop isn’t enough. Therefore both the patient and the doctor should not rely on a crack sound as a confirmation that a positive change has occurred. For this very reason, I do a variety of post-adjustment muscle and orthopedic tests to confirm that the adjustment has made a positive change to the nervous system. The impact (or, really, relief from some impact) on your nervous system causes you to feel better. Go online today to schedule a complimentary consultation to find out how ProActive Chiropractic is different from many other chiropractors and see if there are any other myths I can bust for you.