One of the most common questions that I get from patients is if they can adjust themselves. To answer simply, no, not even chiropractors can adjust themselves.
Most people view the adjustment as just “cracking” your back and don’t understand the purpose that the adjustment serves.
First, the adjustment is much more than just “popping” your neck or back. It is a specific maneuver that is designed to either place a vertebra in the proper position, or to restore proper motion to a joint. Chiropractors perform detailed exams before adjusting patients to ensure that they know which joint needs to be adjusted.
When I see people popping their own neck, they commonly put there hand on their chin and turn their neck until they hear something pop. They have no idea what they are getting to pop, and what isn’t. For this reason, chiropractors use a specific contact to ensure that they know exactly what segment is being adjusted.
Another important note is that a vertebra can be misaligned in a number of ways. A vertebra can move in 16 different directions, so it is important do know in which direction it has moved before making the adjustment. Chiropractors are trained to determine what direction the vertebra has moved and how to put it in the proper position. People who crack their own backs have no idea what direction the bone has moved, therefore they can actually be moving it further out of position.
Have you ever noticed how often people crack their own neck? The reason for this is that when the popping noise occurs the body releases endorphins, which are hormones that make you feel good. The problem is endorphins only last in the blood stream for 15-20 minutes. After that you start to feel the need to pop your neck again. So, you’re not correcting the problem at all, you are just using endorphins to cover the problem temporarily. An adjustment, on the other hand, is putting the vertebra into the proper position, therefore fixing the problem, so you don’t have to rely on endorphins to feel better.
In conclusion, no one can adjust themselves, not even chiropractors. Even if you can pop your own neck or back, you are not fixing the problem, and you may even be making it worse.