The Bizarre Relief of Watching Chiropractic Adjustments on YouTube
A chiropractor explains YouTube’s addictive ‘crack’ videos
Sound can be many things, take on many forms, and conjure a vast array of emotions. Sound can bring us to rage or laughter, or it can calm our nerves, invoking an almost sedative, relaxing quality. While chiropractic work is known for many therapeutic things, soothing sounds aren’t primary among them.
I am a practicing chiropractor. And no less than once a week, I find myself speaking to a patient — in person or over the phone — asking for what I call “the Youtube special.” Can you do that thing I’ve seen on Youtube? That “thing” they’re referring to is a chiropractic adjustment, also called a spinal correction or manipulation. But these prospective patients are seeking a very specific type and style of adjustment — one which produces audibly loud sounds released from the joints within the spine or body.
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In many cases, chiropractors do utilize techniques that produce sound, similar to cracking one’s joints. In some cases, however, they do not. The fact that these videos have become popular (viral even), garnering millions of views, is surprising. It’s one thing to receive a spinal adjustment, but to watch it take place (over video, no less) and experience relief in doing so seems perplexing. You read that correctly: Some observers actually experience relaxation, pain relief even, by simply watching these videos.
After hearing these and similar stories, I decided to conduct my own research into Youtube’s addictive “crack” videos. What I found was both enlightening and surprising. Many of the videos are nearly an hour long, some of them compilations, with different body parts being adjusted or manipulated. The practitioners who record them use sophisticated sound equipment, including microphones and amplifiers that ensure viewers hear every detail. Certain videos also display times whereby specific manipulations or sounds occur. And I can’t forget to mention the comments — those might be the most entertaining and engaging of all.
The satisfying, relaxing sensation associated with observing chiropractic adjustments centers around yet another recent internet phenomenon, ASMR. Coined in 2010, ASMR stands for autonomous sensory meridian response, a tingling sensation beginning in the scalp and progressing down the spine, triggered by visual or auditory stimuli, creating a calming, almost sedative, effect. Associated podcasts and video performances by ASMRtists have become an internet sensation in the years since.
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Like a pair of skinny jeans after Thanksgiving dinner, chiropractic and ASMR don’t seem like the best fit. A holistic branch of health care focused on the spine and musculoskeletal system and their association with the nervous system, chiropractic works to restore a body’s innate, natural ability to heal. The basic theory is this: When vertebrae in the spine are fixated or not moving properly due to misalignment (as well as soft tissue and muscle tension), nerves associated with the region in question can become irritated, causing pain, dysfunction, and disability in severe cases. Chiropractic treatments involve adjusting spinal or other joints, in some cases soft tissue, into normal alignment or tonicity by hand or using instruments.
A 2015 study published in PeerJ suggests ASMR can improve mood and decrease pain through a variety of triggers, including whispering, personal attention, crisp sounds, and slow movements, all of which are prevalent in the popularized videos.
Videos labeled “Satisfying Cracks,” “ASMR Chiropractic Compilation,” or “Loud/Supreme Cracks ASMR” have garnered millions of views. In addition to using audio equipment to maximize every sound created during treatments, some practitioners use voice modulation, creating extraneous sounds through various breathing methods or even whistling while performing manipulations.
It’s one thing to receive a spinal adjustment, but to watch it take place (over video, no less) and experience relief in doing so seems perplexing.
Spinal adjustments are medical procedures
While I understand the motives behind viewership and the entertainment value practitioners are creating, at the end of the day, a chiropractic adjustment is a medical procedure. Although many patients will absolutely benefit from adjustments, these treatments are in no way a one-size-fits-all approach to pain and discomfort. What works for someone else may simply not work for you.
Requesting a treatment because it looks good, sounds satisfying, or produces an autonomous sensory meridian response is likely not the best approach to locating relief yourself. Adjustments producing loud cracks may seem worth pursuing, but in certain cases, they may be counterproductive. Some conditions respond very poorly to this type of treatment. A licensed, skilled chiropractor can best determine which type of adjustment may work for you — if an adjustment is even indicated.
If watching these videos offers you relaxation, relief, or help falling asleep, by all means, enjoy them. Just know that no two people move quite the same way and adjustments are unique to both the person providing treatment and the one being treated.