The Zen Corner

Science, Art, and Philosophy of Chiropractic

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Forceful Cracking

Many people have seen cracking, snapping, and popping in their necks and backs. There are too many homemade tutorials that claim to be therapeutic and relaxing. Some would teach to do on their own, which can be very dangerous because this can cause other health problems as previous blogs have mentioned.


Forceful cracking of the neck and back by an unprofessional can cause unwanted side effects because there is no knowledge and experience from a professional. So people who learn forceful cracking the neck and back on youtube, rely on their muscle force and override the resistance of another. There is a sheer force of mass and speed that overrides the person’s response to guard and move the joints in order to create the sound effects. Which this sound is often mistaken for the therapeutic product for relaxation and removing pain. While there is a cracking, popping, and snapping going on, there is also the possibility of damaging structures.

  1. Sprain the local muscle groups, which can cause soreness, sharp pains, and dull achiness from damaging the muscles from the sudden shear force.
  2. Damage the disc from twisting the disc and tearing the annular fibers of the disc, which can endanger the person to have disc herniations in the future.
  3. Fracture the spine and causing more permanent damages. Bones in the spine can be in a delicate situation and professionals who take x-rays will know this possibility.

There are reasons why physical assessments and having a professional licensure is required for a Chiropractor to adjust the spine. Many people assume it is easy what a Chiropractor does and mimics their chiropractic adjustment. As mentioned in previous blogs before, chiropractic isn’t like using a hammer and slamming the bent nail in. A professional knows that we have to be careful and effective. Tapping and directing carefully to put the nail where it needs to be.

landing2A chiropractic adjustment is often confused with moving spine; like it is moving an inanimate object. The problem is that that moving the spine involves a living person. Which means this bone isn’t an object but a living object. So forcefully cracking or moving a spine will be difficult if the person who is receiving it wasn’t so willing to allow it to move. This will be like hitting a brick wall. So then person pushes harder and harder and the person receiving the push will get stiffer and stiffer. Once the person receiving the push gives in a little, one can imagine the amount of force may have caused some problems.

Dr_Gonstead (1)

A Chiropractic legend Dr. Sigafoose retold his story about his encounter with Dr. Gonstead. Dr. Gonstead was an icon for chiropractors.  If you wanted to be the best, you have to adjust like Dr. Gonstead. He sat next to him at a conference and was told from Dr. Gonstead that one must be one with the bone to adjust the bone. Many of his students that experienced his adjustments mentioned his hands were like pillows and never suspected anything forceful. Dr. Gonstead had rheumatoid arthritis that was cured with chiropractic when he was young. Since then he because of a chiropractor, developed a specific chiropractic technique and a system to do chiropractic adjustment that did not require a forceful maneuver.

Chiropractic adjustment is an Art of Ease

Chiropractic adjustments seem like a physical maneuver only, but it is a cooperation between the chiropractor and the person who is receiving the chiropractic adjustment. Chiropractic adjustment was never meant to be a forceful maneuver but a gentle guided touch with slight speed. Dr. Gonstead was never known to be a forceful chiropractor, he was known for his gentle pillow like hands that will help the nervous system to ease.

The less force utilized in a chiropractic adjustment of the spine, there is more skill and finesse. Using brute force often does not produce the same result compared to a professional, specific, diligent chiropractic adjustment. These skills take many years to master and continued training. There are skill levels in chiropractors compared to a novice or amateur who is trying to copy the chiropractic adjustment.


When critics argue that they do not need training and that they can produce the same result as a professional, that depends on what they are looking for. If a forceful cracking of the neck and back is the product you want then you might be able to reproduce that. When the condition is more complex, severe pain is involved, and daily activity is diminished, the forceful cracking may or may not beneficial to the person in pain. Examination and assessment are needed for a specific adjustment.



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Good, Bad, and the Ugly. Crack My Neck for Relieving Pain.

There are many situations where your spine will crack on its own or intentionally cracking them. The cracking of the spine in any different situations has an effect that can be good, bad, or ugly.


After a certain time period of a Chiropractic adjustment, the spine tends to realign the other vertebra on their own. Most likely the other vertebra was not in the right position are starting to go in the right position by themselves. When your body introduces any kind of force, such as when you are doing light stretching, turning, bending the spine realign. There is nothing to fear but to let your Chiropractor know what happened. Check out the former blog about this topic:


When your spine pops and pain follows immediately then the joint became unstable and causing inflammation and muscle spasm. Even if you didn’t put much stress or any motion on the spine something pops and then the muscles around are creating spasms and sharp pain. Often times these situations are the vertebra was already starting to fall out of place and it was a matter of time when it went out of position. In this case, put ice on the area and get to a Chiropractor that will use x-ray, neurological exams, and education on what has happened and properly adjust that vertebra.


The unprofessional person intentionally twisting of the neck or low back of themselves or to others may create the cracking noise but then they will cause tendon and ligament to tear and create more instability. Over twisting the neck without proper examinations and professional skill then people are at risk possibly damaging artery integrity that is already weakened and may cause cardiovascular problems in the brain. The mistake is to think that by over twisting the joint the crack is more intense and the better you feel.

26real_450That cracking noise is not what Chiropractic is defined by but that is a very big misunderstanding. Cracking in your joints creates an endorphin response that gives you a euphoria for a moment but does not solve the actual joint problem. Properly correcting your spine takes a long training from a graduate level school and getting a state license. A grand total of 4485 hours of clinic hours with health science education. Many people attempt cracking their neck and low back themselves or ask others that are not professionals to crack their spine.

There are many other professional and non-professionals that try to say that they do chiropractic. Professionals such as massage therapists, physical therapists, sports therapists, and even some medical doctors to copy chiropractic because they know how effective Chiropractic care is. Non-professionals such as your friends, families, people you meet at the bar or parties, or any individual that offer to crack your spine or neck on the street. This is why people have an incidence of having a very bad experience with cracking their neck or back because they think it is just cracking is what helps the person. People could get damage to their muscles and ligaments, and damage to the artery structure in the neck.

gonstead and spine

Dr. Gonstead’s Story:

Dr. Gonstead once had a farmer couple come to his office. The wife of this farmer was in a lot of back pain. Dr. Gonstead found the problem after careful analysis and adjusted the spine and told them to come back next week. The former couple did not come back. In fact, they didn’t come back for months. Then the farmer couple came back and the wife of the farmer was in a lot worse back pain. Dr. Gonstead analyzed again and it was much worse condition than before, so he asked the wife what happened. The farmer’s wife confessed that her husband tried to copy Dr. Gonstead after watching him adjust his wife after they went back home. They thought they could do the adjustment themselves not knowing how much science and careful skill that Chiropractic adjustment involved.


There are many occasions were your spine will crack on its own. Some are fine because it is the process of our body to correct and heal itself. Some are bad because the spine got very unstable and finally went out of place. The worse is just because you want to feel the euphoria and cracking your neck or low back and causing a major set back of unstable joints does not help yourselves or the person you are trying to help. You could even cause serious damage to yourself or to others. It is not about cracking your neck and it is not about being a crack dealer for people. If it is about helping people, you should become a Chiropractor or go seek one to help your friend. They will find the cause and stabilize the situation.