Everyone loves a nice joint manipulation, right? That satisfying *CRACK* of the neck or back that sends you on a euphoric spiral as you lay motionless on the treatment table, sighing with relief.
But what is actually happening when you “get adjusted” by your favorite physiotherapist or chiropractor? Are they really moving around your bones or putting them “back in place?”
The fancy word for that delightful *POP* is cavitation. When a joint cavitates, there is simply a pressure change within the gases and liquids within the joint.
To achieve cavitation, a qualified practitioner will place your body in a very specific position in order to build tension across a specific joint or group of joints.
When the practitioner performs a high-velocity, low-amplitude thrust technique, she imparts a rapid change of pressure onto the joint in a controlled manner. The thrust creates a small amount of space between bones that typically lie very close together, causing the formation of tiny bubbles of gas within the joint and the audible “crack” that ensues as the pressure is released.
You can almost compare this change in pressure to opening a bottle of champagne-- except your joint fluids don’t spew all over everyone at the party.
Joint manipulations can have a powerful neurophysiological effect, causing local analgesia or pain relief and relaxation within the muscles surrounding the joint. What joint manipulations do not do is change your boney alignment in any significant way or “put things back into place.” The cavitations simply send intense sensory inputs to your nervous system that can change your perception of tightness and/or pain. The effects are largely temporary and short-lived, but they can be used to open up a window of increased tolerance to certain active movements and exercises to facilitate longer lasting benefits.
Since joint manipulations feel pretty good, people often want more and more of them. The thrust becomes a must. When they run into a chiropractor or physio who convinces them to get weekly “tune-ups” to keep everything “aligned,” situations can become very misleading and expensive.
I want to remind you that when it comes to rehab and pain management, a treatment that is done to you will never be as effective as a treatment you do for yourself in the long-term. A passive approach to pain won’t get you nearly as far as an active approach that empowers you to take control of your own body.
If you want to learn more about taking charge of your pain, make sure you check out my new book Back in Motion, which is available for pre-order now. Don’t forget to comment your answers to the quiz coming up on the screen to win some free HYBRID apparel, and let me know if you have any questions.
See you guys next time!