Schrickel Health & Wellness Blog

What is the "pop"?

January 6, 2023

What is the "pop"?

The popping or cracking that you can feel in any joint, such as your neck, back or your knuckles, is called a cavitation. This cavitation results when a joint is gapped, or opened up during movement. Rapid movement, such as a result of an adjustment, or slow movement, like during a stretch, can both produce a cavitation. When this movement occurs within the joint, a rapid release of gases (oxygen, nitrogen, and co2 to be exact) gets released within the joint capsule, leading to an audible and distinctive popping sound.

A good way to visualize how a cavitation happens is to picture a suction cup on a window. You can’t see the gases between the rubber cup and window, but they exist. With a quick, controlled pull, the cup releases from the window and you hear a pop. This is very similar to what happens within your joints. 

Tendons moving around, such as in your ankle, can also produce a “popping” or “snapping” sensation. This sound is produced from the physical movement of that tendon over bone. Think of a rubber band sliding over something. 

Popping and cracking by itself is not something to be alarmed about. However, popping and cracking with regular movement may be an indicator that there is some asymmetry present and possibly an underlying issue that may need to be addressed. The popping should also not be painful. Painful popping may indicate something additional, such as inflammation or arthritis, may be present. If you have a joint that consistently pops and has discomfort in it, getting it addressed by a chiropractor can help. Constantly have an urge to crack your neck or back by yourself is also an indicator that you have an asymmetry present. The longer an asymmetry is present, the greater the chances of problems developing. One problem that can develop is arthritis.


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