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Can you adjust yourself?


Have you every tried to crack your own neck or back? You are not alone. It’s a question we get in the office every week, but is it safe? Can it actually work? 

Dr. Pat O’Bryan and Dr. Tim Dooley with IPMD say an actual adjustment needs to be done by a trained professional to get the right angle and pressure to the joint. Trying to do this to yourself can cause injury and make the problem worse. 

“You can even end up on the surgery table if an adjustment is not done correctly,” said Dr. Tim Dooley. 

“We advise against any abrupt movements or moves that force the joint against its normal range of motion,” said Dr. Pat O’ Bryan.

A lot of people think if they get a crack when they bend their neck a certain way, that’s an adjustment and the problem or pain is fixed. This is not the case. The “pop” or “crack” is just gas/air releasing between your joints. The sound does not mean the entire problem is fixed. The goal of an adjustment is to relax the muscle or improve/restore joint function.

Trained doctors use x-rays and physical exams to help determine what joints need adjusted. 

Abruptly moving a joint can cause some inflammation or even more pain or damage than you started with. If you are forcing the joint against its natural range of motion, it can also cause it to get too loose and make it more difficult for a chiropractor to fix.

“Every time you turn and crack it, the joint that is the least stuck is going to be the first one to pop on repeat so you might not be hitting the spot that you need to hit and putting hyper-mobility or too much movement into a joint that doesn’t need it and when you go to a chiropractor to adjust it, the joints that you have stretched out are the ones absorbing the force,” said Dr. Pat O’Bryan.

This can make correcting the problem even more difficult. The reason Chiropractic care works is because you have another person, who is properly trained, delivering pressure to a specific area, at a specific angle. There are some areas you just won’t be able to get on your own.

“You can start developing headaches and posture issues,” said Dr. Tim Dooley.

However, Dr. Dooley and Dr. O’ Bryan agree there are several stretches that patients can do at home to help alleviate pain and discomfort. They suggest always consulting your Chiropractor first so you don’t aggravate your condition. See below for some demonstrations. 


Neck pain? Avoid any quick movements. Turn neck slowly to one side like you are looking over your shoulder or try this chin tuck stretch. 

Mid-back pain? Interlock fingers behind your head. Sink back toward the ground. Hold for 5 seconds. This is providing an extension in your mid-back.

More back pain? Try a foam roller. It’s the #1 thing we suggest our patient’s purchase for their back. It helps joints move and lengthen muscles. Retain a proper flexed position, hug yourself and lift pelvis up. Roll up and down. Focus on your breathing. 

Dr. O’Bryan demonstrates full stretches below: