Beliefs in the population about cracking sounds produced during spinal manipulation

The aim of this study was to examine beliefs about cracking sounds heard during high-velocity low-amplitude (HVLA) thrust spinal manipulation in individuals with and without personal experience of this technique.

The authors included 100 individuals. Among them, 60 had no history of spinal manipulation, including 40 who were asymptomatic with or without a past history of spinal pain and 20 who had nonspecific spinal pain. The remaining 40 patients had a history of spinal manipulation; among them, 20 were asymptomatic and 20 had spinal pain. Participants attended a one-on-one interview during which they completed a questionnaire about their history of spinal manipulation and their beliefs regarding sounds heard during spinal manipulation.

The mean age of the participants was 43.5±15.4years. The sounds were ascribed to vertebral repositioning by 49% of participants and to friction between two vertebras by 23% of participants; only 9% of participants correctly ascribed the sound to the formation of a gas bubble in the joint. The sound was mistakenly considered to indicate successful spinal manipulation by 40% of participants. No differences in beliefs were found between the groups with and without a history of spinal manipulation.

Certain beliefs have documented adverse effects. This study showed a high prevalence of unfounded beliefs regarding spinal manipulation. These beliefs deserve greater attention from healthcare providers, particularly those who practice spinal manipulation.

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