If you suffer from joint stiffness and discomfort, you may have gotten into the habit of cracking your own problem areas. But, while self-cracking may provide a measure of temporary relief, it’s not addressing the causes of your pain and it could be making your issue worse. Here’s why adjustments should only be done by a professional.
Why do my joints crack or pop?
In addition to bones, tendons, and cartilage, your joints contain a substance known as synovial fluid. Synovial fluid is, essentially, a lubricant; it reduces friction and helps ensure smooth, painless movement. Inside the fluid are gases, such as oxygen and nitrogen. When you stretch or manipulate your joints, the fluid shifts and those gases are released, which creates a popping sound.
Popping often occurs naturally as a result of daily movement and activity, which is perfectly normal. If, however, that pop is accompanied by pain, or you routinely feel the need to crack your joints to relieve tension or discomfort, it is time to consult a chiropractic care specialist.
Can self-cracking be harmful?
While the occasional self-crack is nothing to be too concerned about, habitually self-adjusting is a potentially serious health hazard. For example:
- Consistently cracking your joints creates significant wear and tear on the affected area. This can lead to premature degeneration and arthritis.
- Cracking a joint creates a ‘loosening’ effect, easing pressure on the area. Repeated cracking, however, can cause a joint to become too loose. That means your tendons and muscles need to work harder to stabilize the affected area. Not only does that lead to more tension, it also has a weakening effect, making you more prone to injury.
- The joints of the neck and back are full of delicate nerves, blood vessels, and other critical soft tissues. Improperly cracking these areas can cause signifiant damage, potentially leading to very serious health problems including stroke, paralysis, even death.
What are the benefits of a professional adjustment?
There’s a huge difference between self-cracking a bothersome joint and an adjustment performed by a licensed chiropractor with years of training and experience. First off, a chiropractor takes the time to get familiar with your problem areas, your medical history, and any other factors that may influence your treatment. Then, he or she will conduct a through examination to determine the true cause of your discomfort (which is often not the area directly experiencing pain but one nearby). Only then will a targeted wellness adjustment, employing an appropriate amount of force through safe and effective techniques, be considered. And as our patients will tell you, it’s that expertise and attention to detail that helped bring them long-lasting relief.