Self Manipulation Vs Chiropractic Manipulation; Cracking your own Joints

self adjustment vs chiropracti

Self Manipulation Vs Chiropractic Manipulation; Cracking your own Joints

I meet people on a regular basis from patients to friends that crack their neck or back. Commenting that it feels good and gives them a sense of relief by freeing up the joints. It has usually become a habit, with people doing it on a daily basis. So why see a chiropractor if it’s that easy? 

Chiropractors – and only chiropractors – can perform what is known as an “adjustment”. So what is an adjustment? An Adjustment is a form of manipulation to a joint with a shallow force directed into a specific joint to help it move more freely throughout its range of motion. The main and most important characteristic that makes an adjustment different to that of cracking your own back is Specificity. Specificity is Directing an individual joint in a chosen direction. This comes with half a decade’s worth of training in palpation, anatomy, physics in force vectors and of course experience. As a Chiropractor I cannot even adjust my own back, but instead see another Chiropractor to keep my spine in line and healthy.

So let’s look at little more at Self Manipulation. Self-manipulation in contrast to an adjustment is completely non-specific. In fact, when someone “Cracks” their own back, they are moving and rotating a whole area or region of the spine – such as the neck – which takes each spinal segment one way and then the other. Moving joints that are already moving the most rather than the joints that are stuck. It may also take the misaligned joints further into the direction to which they are rotated/misaligned. This non-specific movement is why relief is temporary, occurring because of automatic release of endorphins (feel-good chemicals) by the brain that occurs when a joint is manipulated (usually generating a person’s bad habit of continued self-manipulation). However, the relief does not last long because the source of the symptoms is still there. The restricted/misaligned joint causing pain is still stuck, while the joints surrounding it are moving even more. 

So let’s go back for a moment and talk about the “popping” or “cracking” sound heard from joints. This sound is called a cavitation and is caused by a release of built up nitrogen gas in the facet joints of the spine (the joints where each vertebra connects to the adjoining vertebra). But let’s make something clear, the popping sound is not important. Cavitation’s themselves are unrelated to the pain-relief experienced after an adjustment. The pain-relief instead comes from the improvement in joint motion, the correction of misaligned joint segments, relaxation of muscles and reduction in nerve irritation all associated from a chiropractic adjustment.

So the next time you go to twist and crack your own spine, consider getting it done by a Chiropractor to resolve the underlying issue and experience the difference of long lasting pain relief!


Dr Nathan Petridis

About the Author

Dr Nathan Petridis is our chiropractor and the owner of Balanced Life Health Care. He is a passionate chiropractor who has a passion in wellness care and prevention of lifestyle caused pain. To find out more about Dr Nathan Petridis click here or to book a consultation click here 



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