It’s natural to get a little unnerved.

It’s natural to get a little unnerved when you hear cracking or popping sounds when your chiropractor adjusts your neck or back, especially if it’s your first visit. Your chiropractor should set your mind at ease by providing a short explanation about what he or she is about to do and what it may feel, and sound, like. Helping you feel at ease and sympathizing with any worries you may have, are signs of a good chiropractor.

So, what are those sounds about after all?

When a chiropractor performs an adjustment, he or she is relieving pressure that is affecting one or more nerves. There is a scientific name for the problem the chiropractor is correcting. It is called a “subluxation.” A subluxation is a misalignment in the spine that puts pressure on, or irritates a nerve. You’ve heard the term, “pinched nerve.” That “pinch” may come from a bone—a vertebra—that has shifted out of position, or that isn’t moving correctly. Certain conditions, such as arthritis, can cause degeneration of the vertebrae. That degeneration may also cause subluxations.

The misalignments in our bodies can build up over months, even years. We may not feel them right away, but when the body has had enough, we feel pain, we may become tired and irritable. Keep in mind, that our spine is supposed to protect the nerves of our spinal cord. If the nerves are irritated, there are serious consequences for the entire body. The correlation between a misalignment of the spine and some of the symptoms we feel may not be immediately clear. For example, anxiety and asthma are not conditions we would normally attribute to a problem in our spine, yet chiropractic adjustments may work to reduce or even correct these conditions entirely.

Finally, the pop you may hear when a chiropractor performs an adjustment is sometimes referred to as a “cavitation.” No, your bones are definitely not cracking. That noise comes from a joint that is suddenly opened.. It’s like taking a piece of paper, folding it in half, and then pulling at both ends. You hear a pop. The “synovial” fluids that lubricate your joints release gas—oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide. Think of the pop you hear when you uncork a bottle of sparkling wine—that’s carbon dioxide making its escape.

Don’t be concerned about the sounds you hear during an adjustment.

Once the fluids around the joints can move and and do their job, you feel so much better. The bottom line is this—don’t be concerned about the sounds you hear during an adjustment. If anything, adjustments are followed by your own sighs of relief from pain. Many chiropractors work with massage therapists who provide you with a gentle massage just before the chiropractor performs the adjustment. This allows your body to be relaxed and ready for the healing that comes with a good adjustment.