It all depends on when and how it happens. If you’ve had a treatment before you may have experienced certain joints cracking. If you don’t typically crack your joints, it might be a little shocking or even concerning if you’re not sure what to expect.
What makes a joint crack?
I think it’s important to first understand a little bit about what is happening when a joint cracks or pops.
Recently the mechanisms of joint cracking became a little clearer. A study by Kawchuk and team at the University of Alberta observed the cracking sound was the result of a small gas bubble forming within the synovial joint. The main idea is that cavitation of a synovial joint occurs as a result of drawing the two bone surfaces away from one another. This creates a low pressure system, or a partial vacuum environment, where certain dissolved gases in the joint aggregate and come out of solution momentarily. Upon formation the bubble and vacuum degrade within moments and the gases gradually move back into solution.
When the cracking is NOT okay:
Firstly I need to say that our role as Thai massage practitioners is NEVER to give adjustments intentionally. I say this with capitalization because some practitioners do indeed provide joint cracking as a part of their treatments. This is when the cracking is not appropriate.
We are not chiropractors and nor should we pretend to be. There is a disturbing practice of sudden neck adjustments to achieve a crack, and without the adequate education (which is not provided in any Thai massage institution in the world), this is an incredibly dangerous practice.
When is it okay?
There are instances in treatments where joints will crack even when we focus all our attention on the soft tissue. When pressure is applied slowly and movements are made gradually, joints can spontaneously cavitate, creating a rather relieving crack.
The hypothesis behind why this happens when we are focusing our work on the soft connective tissues, refers to the tension we hold. Within our body we need a certain amount of tension to hold us together, but when we’re stressed (physically, mentally, emotionally), there tends to be greater amounts of tension within our connective tissue. When tensions are high, joints automatically can’t move as much as they might like to, or be used to. In a treatment, when tension is released around these joints, this creates the greater likelihood of the joint cracking, simply because it can move further in different directions.
The main thing to remember is this: if your joints crack in a treatment and you practitioner is moving slowly and applying pressure gradually, then it’s totally okay! (Even beneficial). Any other contexts involving sudden movements or the intent to crack should only ever be encountered in the offices of trained and licensed chiropractors to ensure safety.
Continue reading with “Yes, Your IT-Band Is Tight…But It Should Be“, and “You Probably Think There Are 4 Quadriceps Muscles. Think Again.“.