Chiropractic Spinal Manipulation

By Dean Moyer
Author of Rebuild Your Back

If youíve ever received chiropractic treatment then you're no doubt familiar with that satisfying little pop your back makes at the hands of a skillful chiropractor.

Well, it might interest you to know that the sound you hear when a chiropractor adjusts your back is not the sound of bones being re-aligned at all. What it is is nothing more than the sound of a temporary vacuum that is created whenever any joint is suddenly separated.

To put it in a slightly different perspective, itís the same sound you hear whenever someone cracks their knuckles.

And - just as with knuckle cracking - the two bones will immediately return to the exact same position they were in prior to this little popping event. (At least you better hope they do because, if they donít, youíre going to be in excruciating pain with a dislocated joint.)

But don't just take my word for it. Here's what former chiropractor, Dr. John Badanes had to say on the subject:

I stated that the "popping" of a joint doesn't signal any change in the "position" of that joint any more than "cracking" a knuckle does. [3]

Chiropractic Parlor Trick

You can simulate this simple law of physics for yourself by moistening your lips, pressing them together and then separating them quickly. The sudden vacuum created inside your mouth makes a little popping sound. (This same acoustic principle is why you can make a clicking sound on the roof of your mouth with your tongue.)

Does making a sound by popping your lips or clicking your tongue have anything to do with healing or physical therapy? Could it have any medical purpose whatsoever? Or for that matter, does cracking your knuckles re-align your fingers?

No, of course not.

Here's what Dr. Badanes had to say:

Vertebral joints are synovial-type joints that "pop" when you "stretch" them... There is no evidence that cracking knuckles OR spines makes them "function" any better -- at least as "dysfunction" and "function" are variably defined by chiropractors from office to office. [3]

Chiropractic manipulation may feel good, but it's entirely unnecessary and has nothing to do with re-aligning your spine. In fact, it can be harmful (and potentially dangerous) especially for someone with osteoporosis.

So Why Do Chiropractors Do It?

Simple... I believe they do it for show.

I believe they do it because you canít do it yourself and because it makes you think theyíve done something really spectacularÖ something your back needed in order to recover.

And since you canít do it yourself, doesnít this make you entirely dependent on the chiropractor for this magic little pop?

Exactly... they now have a patient for life.

Chiropractic Psychological Manipulation

The chiropractor knows that itís this magic little pop that tricks you into believing that chiropractic is real. He knows that itís this satisfying sound and brief pleasant sensation that puts you under his spell and keeps you coming back again and again.

Does that mean that all chiropractors are crooks or frauds? I don't know, thatís something youíll have to judge for yourself.

All Iím saying is that your back needs more than an occasional knuckle cracking if itís ever going to improve.

Chiropractic vs. Common Sense

Your back needs to be stretched and exercised frequently throughout the day, every day if itís truly going to get better. And it should be mobilized gently... not in a way thatís just going to add to your troubles later on down the road.

If you recall in the previous article we asked the question, Donít I Need a Chiropractor? By this time I hope youíve already arrived at the obvious answer.

Until next time,

Next: How Chiropractic Damages Your Spine


Chiropractic Article Series:

About the Author

Dean Moyer is the author of the books, Rebuild Your Back, Rebuild Your Neck and The Pain Relief Manual. Copies of his books are available exclusively through this website. Read more...

Rebuild Your Back
Rebuild Your Back
Second Edition
Rebuild Your Neck
Rebuild Your Neck
The Pain Relief Manual
The Pain Relief Manual


  1. Book: "Inside Chiropractic: A Patient's Guide" by Samuel Homola, DC 1999 Prometheus Books
  2. Book: "Bonesetting, Chiropractic, and Cultism" by Samuel Homola, DC 1963
  3. Scientific American Frontiers: Dr. John Badanes DC, PharmD
  4. A Different Way To Heal
  7. Chirotalk: The Skeptical Chiropractic Discussion Forum

Last updated: July 28, 2007