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The Truth About Audibles and Why you Shouldn’t Expect to Hear Them When Your Animal is Adjusted

Audibles are the pops you hear when you crack your knuckles or when having your neck adjusted by the chiropractor. These sounds are thought to be due to the rapid formation of a large gas bubble within the joint space that occurs when the joint capsule is stretched rapidly. Think: lots of small air pockets dispersed throughout the joint fluid that rapidly join together to make one big gas pocket by the negative pressure created when the joint is stretched. These popping sounds sometimes heard when our joints are stretched, are benign, however, if you are noticing these a lot in your animal pay attention and be sure to let your practitioner know about it at their next adjustment (more about this later).

I often get the question: “Why isn’t there more cracking and popping during my pets’ chiropractic adjustment?” the simple answer is because their anatomy is different than ours. If you have ever visited the chiropractor yourself, then you know that there are certain areas that pop more than others (like your neck!); this is because the larger the joint capsule, the more room there is to form a big air bubble when the joint is stretched (and a larger joint capsule surface area to be stretched). Many of the joints we are working on in animals have small joint spaces, like the vertebrae along the spine. There ARE many large joints in some of our animal species (I.e. neck and hip), certainly- in some cases- larger than joints in our own bodies! However, these joints are WELL supported by LARGE muscle masses and THICK connective tissue structures (have you ever thought about how much strength and support it would take to suspend a 100+lb skull at the end of a long neck, (in your horses’ case)? These are some of the reasons we don’t hear many audibles when working on animals, however, in my experience the most common times to hear them are when working on the neck and distal limbs (particularly of horses).

Audibles can be impressive, and certainly indicate that something is happening regarding the joint (s), but they are not important to you or your animal’s chiropractic adjustment. A lack of snaps and pops DOES NOT mean that nothing is happening or that your chiropractor is useless! Chiropractic adjustments both in humans and in animals are much more about TECHNIQUE than strength. The principles of a thrust applied to a joint meant to correct a VSC (vertebral subluxation complex) are HIGH velocity, LOW amplitude….so….speed more than force. What IS very important, is that your animal’s chiropractor has intimate knowledge of your animal’s anatomy. Why? Because applying force to a joint not considering the angle at which the bones articulate is at best useless, and at worst harmful (to find a chiropractor for your animal who has been certified with the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association – AVCA- visit: ).

Usually audibles mean nothing: a joint can pop without having restored its proper motion (the aim of the adjustment) and a joint can certainly stay silent while being “fixed”. The one caveat to audibles, is that potentially the more “lax” a joint capsule is, the more likely it is to pop when it is stretched. This explains how people who crack their knuckles a lot are more easily able to make those noises. For this reason, if you are hearing lots of popping in the same joints during the same motions, be sure to notify your animal’s chiropractor so they can examine for any areas of instability.

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