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"The Perils of Self-Adjusting: Understanding the Pop Sound and Why It's Not Recommended"

We all have seen people (and maybe have been guilty ourselves of) twisting the body to hear that crack. "Why not? It feels good, and gives temporary relief. It's no different than what a chiropractor does"... OR IS IT????

The biggest difference between self-manipulating or having an untrained person manipulate you versus a licensed professional chiropractor becomes apparent when you ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do you feel better for about 15-20 minutes and then want to do it again? If yes, then that means you probably didn't move the problem joint and likely "popped" the ones next to it that are perfectly fine. The reason it will feel good temporarily is because endorphins (feel good hormones) get released with that popping sound and their effects last about 15-20 minutes. When they wear off, the trouble joint that wasn't actually helped will start to irritate you which is why you want to pop it again. In the short run, sure, it won't make much difference, but if this becomes habit then you could be creating a more difficult problem to correct over time. That's because causing an overstretch to a joint that doesn't need it can lead to hypermobility and instability. Meanwhile, since the main problem joint isn't actually being helped, it will still be there, and the longer a fixated joint in the spine is there, the more dysfunction it will cause, leading to postural difficulties, accelerated degenerative changes, and increase in symptoms.

  2. Do you know what is being affected and how it is moving? If no, then the lack of specificity means we are guessing with the delicate structures of the spine and nervous system. When there's a joint that doesn't work properly in the spine, 2 things happen-- your structure becomes compromised (and we lose posture and balance that triggers more difficulty to perform everyday tasks) and your nerves exiting the spine in that region will be under stress. Generally, stress is a source of not only aches and pains, but there's a cascade of metabolic changes that lead to all sorts difficulties too. If we aren't SURE of what we are doing to affect this highly specialized region of our bodies, we then aren't sure of the outcome. Along those lines, we know based on the anatomy of the spine, that there are certain patterns in which a joint can get fixated and cause this irritation. So even if you happen to be on the right spot, if you don't know how it is moving there may be a chance that you are pushing it further into a wrong position and can make it worse.

When I see a patient, I take a deep dive on examination, take x rays when indicated, and analyze them to the millimeter to know the exact behavior of the spine and how it is affecting the person. I refer to these every visit along with using an instrument called a nervoscope which detects temperature differentials along the spine to let me know what joint of the spine needs more attention. Then I use all the information gathered to determine which joint, count meticulously to make sure I am on the right segment, and carefully deliver an adjustment in the direction of correction. I make sure to isolate JUST that joint and not disturb anything else in the process by keeping the person as neutral as possible. This is how the Gonstead technique works, and this is why the effects of an adjustment lasts for 6-12 hours up to a couple of days instead of just minutes. I don't chase sounds, I don't move more than needs to, and I explain everything as I go so we are on the same page and are working toward the same goal of stress relief, postural balance, and improved function. That is why we are different for different patients, and why we get the great results that we do.

Take home message: Don't be a crack addict! Seek professional help from a chiropractor who will be precise with your spine. Get it properly analyzed, get x ray imaging taken so you KNOW instead of guess, and go to someone who will take care in delivering you a specific, corrective adjustment that is appropriate for that day, and who will post-check! You only have one, so treat it well!

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