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Snap Crackle Pop - The Sound of a Joint Release

Updated: Oct 4, 2022

I thought that, over the next few weeks, I would address a few common questions that I am often asked by our patients. Let’s start with the most common one!


The most common question that patients ask me is about joint manipulation, “What is that cracking or popping sound I hear when you adjust my back and are you sure it is ok”? The answer to this question is surprisingly simple.

  • The sound that you hear during joint manipulation comes from the release of accumulated gas (80% carbon dioxide) within the joint. In fact, about 15% of our joint volume (where the synovial fluid is located) is made up of gases. (1)

  • Secondly, that sound you hear during joint manipulation is NOT harmful — no matter what your mother may have told you.



Joint cavitation (releasing the joint) has several benefits.

  • The most immediate benefit that you will notice is an increased range of motion in the joint.

  • In addition, you will find some very beneficial neurological effects. Essentially, cavitation of the joint is a very effective way of initiating a neurological response known as a Reflex Action (from the periarticular receptors - which are the neurological receptors surrounding the joint).

Let me explain. Most back problems involve both the joints and the soft-tissue structures that surround the joint (paraspinal muscles, ligaments, tendons, fascia, joint capsules, etc). Essentially, when you are injured, the neurological receptors around your joints (mechanoreceptors and nocieptors) cause your joints and muscles to become very hypertonic (increased capsule tension, increased nerve ending sensitivity, and tight restricted muscles) —all of which cause pain.(2)

  • When a spinal joint is manipulated, it creates a reflex action in all the surrounding neurological joint receptors (mechanoreceptors and nocieptors). (2)

  • This in turn causes the surrounding joint capsule to release, allowing the hypertonic muscle to relax and allows the nerve endings to become less sensitive

  • The end result is decreased levels of pain.

Therefore, you should consider the sound of joint cavitation to be a very positive occurrence. Joint cavitation is an indication that the “Neurological Reflex Response” has been activated. With this sound, you know that you will now have increased range-of-motion in the joint, decreased soft-tissue tension and best of all, a decrease in pain.

The Power of Chiropractic Adjustments

Chiropractic adjustments are powerful tools. When patients who suffer from chronic back pain receive care, at regularly pre-planned intervals, (Chiropractic Maintenance Care), then they do much better as compared to patients who only receive care during episodes of acute back pain.



As a musculoskeletal practitioner, my success rate would be greatly reduced if I did not address spinal joint restrictions. In fact, NONE of the many soft-tissue techniques that we use in practice (MSR, Graston, ART, etc.) can activate the periarticular “Neurological Reflex Response” the way that joint cavitation can. Joint manipulation in the hands of a trained practitioner is a highly effective and safe form of therapy.

That being, said yes we do have alternatives to joint manipulation. The alternative is called joint mobilization! Mobilization is the NO-SOUND alternative. Both forms of therapy are effective!


It is important to inform patients about the alternatives to manipulation for the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine. The following videos discuss the subject of joint manipulation Vs. mobilization and give you examples of mobilization in different spinal areas.

Warning: Only trained licensed practitioners.

Neck Adjustment or Neck Mobilization: Patients have options! When you are suffering from neck pain do you need a Neck Adjustment or Neck Mobilization? Will Soft Tissue Therapy achieve the same results?

Cervical Joint Mobilization - MSR: In this video, I will show you examples of Cervical Joint Mobilization. These are examples of some of the procedures that we teach in our Motion Specific Release (MSR) courses. Please note MSR procedures are to be performed only by certified MSR Practitioners!


Joint Manipulation or Joint Mobilization it's Your Choice

Your spinal and peripheral joints make up a key component of your body’s kinetic web. Joint restrictions make up a significant component of most injuries and should not be overlooked.

Whether you would prefer joint manipulation or joint mobilization is totally up to you.

Don't be deterred by the sound of joint manipulation, it is an indication that you will now have an increased range-of-motion in the joint, decreased soft-tissue tension and best of all, a decrease in pain.

If the sound is something that you would like to avoid just tell us, and we will use mobilization procedures. The choice you always yours!


Make Your Appointment Today!

Make an appointment with our incredible team at Kinetic Health in NW Calgary, Alberta. Call Kinetic Health at 403-241-3772 to make an appointment today, or just click the MSR logo to right. We look forward to seeing you!



  1. The audible release associated with joint manipulation. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 1995 Mar-Apr;18(3):155-64. Brodeur R. .

  2. Spinal manipulative therapy and somatosensory activation. J Electromyogr Kinesiol. 2012 Oct;22(5):785-94. doi: 10.1016/j.jelekin.2012.01.015. Epub 2012 Feb 19. Pickar JG1, Bolton PS. .

#jointmanipulation #JOINTCAVITATION #KineticHealth #MSR #BrianAbelson #poppingsoundforchiropractic #backpain #jointrelease

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