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What goes ‘CRACK’?
First a little bit of anatomy is required. The most common joint type in the body is a synovial joint. Every spinal bone (vertebra) has four of these (called spinal facet joints) and you have 24 vertebrae, so that is lot of joints.
The general anatomy of a synovial joint is illustrated here:
For this article the important bits are joint ends of the bones, the joint capsule and the synovial cavity, which contains the cartilage lined joint surfaces and the synovial fluid.
When you move around your healthy joints work in their normal functional range within the physiological zone, limited by the ‘elastic barrier’. Mobilisation or stretching will challenge and bounce on this barrier but it stops short of breaking through it. Beyond the elastic barrier lies the paraphysiological space, which is the safety zone before the joint is damaged. You cannot yourself move a joint into this zone but the chiropractic adjustment does.
As well as applying the correct amount of movement it is equally important that the
chiropractic adjustment is fast enough to beat the stretch reflex, which every muscle
possesses. As an example, try tapping your knee just below your knee cap. This stretches
your thigh muscles very suddenly causing them to contract. If your lower leg hangs
loosely when this is done the lower leg will kick out -
Current evidence suggests that some or all of the following mechanisms may be responsible for the observed effects of joint manipulation:
So what other noises may a joint make?
Other noises that may be heard from a joint include tendons of muscles snapping over
bony prominences as you move. Most commonly this happens in the wrists, shoulders,
hips and ankles. It is not actually occurring in the joint itself but outside it
and is usually totally harmless. Another cause of joint noise is more ominous; Arthritis,
particularly the wear-
Is deliberately clicking my joints bad for me?
You may have come across people who keep clicking their joints. Clicking associated with normal movements has never been identified as a cause of arthritis. If you are a regular finger clicker this too is unlikely to be bad for you. One survey in a retirement home found regular finger clickers were less likely to have arthritis.
Some people feel that they can release tension in their shoulders or in their back by regularly contort themselves causing a ‘click’. Rarely does this have a lasting effect and whereas it may be safe to do we have found that people often need to do it more and more frequently with less and less effect. We have also found that advising people to stop clicking themselves (however tempting) in areas they are having treatment more often results in a successful treatment outcome that lasts.
Some people worry that regular chiropractic adjustments may cause joint damage. This
has never been shown and in fact the reverse is likely to be true. Joint stiffness
which chiropractic treatment removes can cause wear-