Most joints in our bodies are surrounded by ligament capsules that contain a synovial fluid that nourishes and lubricates the joint itself.
When we don’t move enough, sitting for prolonged periods of time, for example, gasses build up inside the synovial capsule and cause pressure to rise. This pressure makes us feel stiff and tense, nature’s clever way of asking us to move more. When we move the joint in the appropriate direction, in a specific way that stretches the ligaments enough, the gasses “pop out” and get released from the capsule, producing an audible “crack”.
This, completely natural process, happens in people absolutely all the time, whether they like it or not. The intentional “adjustment” performed by your physiotherapist or chiropractor is nothing more than the deliberate movement of a stiff joint releasing the trapped gasses and reducing the stiffness and tension. When performed correctly, an adjustment on any joint does not cause any harm, although brief discomfort from the applied pressure is completely normal and expected.
The primary issue with adjustments is that their effects are completely short term. The clinical reasoning behind performing an adjustment is to provide instant pain relief for the patient, and that is exactly what an adjustment does. All the talk about “aligning of the spine” and preventative benefits of an adjustment is completely bogus. The long-term benefit comes from teaching the patient to “self adjust” through movement on a regular basis. This is where most clinicians fail. They fail to give patients the tools necessary to maintain the mobility they gained from the adjustment done in the clinic.
The more people learn about adjustments the less they will be afraid of them and the more people will benefit from them. Don’t be afraid of an adjustment, learn how to get it done yourself and reap the benefits of improved movement and reduced pain.