What’s That Crack?

Clickity clackity bones and joints are not always a bad thing. Neither are they always a sign of damage or ageing. Have you watched a video or witnessed someone having their neck or back cracked or adjusted? Have you experienced having a joint cracked yourself and wondered what makes that cracking sound?
Look no further, we have the answers you’re looking for.

Cracking also known as adjustments, manipulation or HVLA thrust techniques is a treatment technique that should only be performed by trained professionals. This technique involves putting the body into a certain position to create a locking-like mechanism of the joint. Your practitioner then applies a short sharp thrust in a specific direction and this can allow for a popping or cracking noise that many people associate with this technique.

Many people believe and speculate that cracking is harmful to the body and increases one’s likelihood of developing arthritis later in life but this is not the case. Some people associated this popping or cracking sound with injury or fracturing of a bone. The pops and cracks created by your practitioner are far from damaging and actually have beneficial effects on the body’s pain levels, nervous system and range of motion.

During this technique when performed correctly by professionals the cracking or popping sounds is actually created by the popping of gas bubbles that build up in the synovial fluid surrounding our joints. Synovial fluid provides lubrication to the joint it surrounds for smooth and better movement. This fluid contains gases like oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen. As we perform this technique we quickly stretch the joint capsule all allowing for these gases to quickly ‘pop and release back into the synovial fluid’. This is why our joints can naturally pop and crack at times. Common joints that click, crack and pop are the knuckles, knees, ankles, back, and neck.

Some conditions like arthritis, movement of ligaments and tendons and the natural process of degeneration as we age can also lead to cracking and popping of joints, so it is important to always get pops or cracks that are painful or accompanied by fluid or swelling investigated by a medical professional.
If you have any questions or concerns about popping or cracking joints don’t hesitate to ask one of our friendly osteopaths.


DeWeber, K., Olszewski, M., & Ortolano, R. (2011). Knuckle cracking and hand osteoarthritis. The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, 24(2), 169-174.

Gibbons, P., & Tehan, P. (2001). Spinal manipulation: indications, risks and benefits. Journal of Bodywork and Movement therapies, 5(2), 110-119.

Wood, T. G., Colloca, C. J., & Matthews, R. (2001). A pilot randomized clinical trial on the relative effect of instrumental (MFMA) versus manual (HVLA) manipulation in the treatment of cervical spine dysfunction. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 24(4), 260-271.

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