If You Don’t Use It You Lose It – Fixations

spineEver wonder what causes all those snap, crackles and pops in the body when you move? No it wasn’t the rice crispies you ate for breakfast. There are 3 causes of these snap, crackles and pops sounds you hear in the body; fixation, friction or release of gas.


Gas you say? Yes small bubbles of nitrogen can form in the synovial fluids of our joints to cause these popping sounds in the body. Once the bubble is popped the joint will not make another sound until more gas is built up again in the joint.


A friction snap, crackles and pops sounds on the other hand is when two surfaces rub together creating friction. Pressure builds up between the two surfaces with the friction and creates a sound. Ligaments, Tendons or a piece of cartilage may get temporarily stuck or rub against another structure of the body. These pressures will builds up enough to overcome the friction and a release will happen. This usually sounds like a snapping sound. There are healthy frictions and unhealthy friction in the body. Cracking your knuckles is a from of healthy frictions. Constant cracking of your knuckles may loosen up ligaments yet there is no scientific studies stating it will cause any harmful effects. Having a torn ligament or cartilage however is an unhealthy friction.   A piece of ligament or cartilage which is damaged can get caught in the joint and create friction. If you have a snap, crackle or pop with pain then these should be avoided and instigated by a professional.

Spinal cord bones


The last snap crackle and popping sound is fixation. A fixation is a temporary sticking together or two surfaces. The cracking sound is generated when the surface are released. The loud pop you get when you do a twist of your spine is most likely caused by a releasing fixation. This is usually a good feeling of a release.

There are 3 conditions for fixations occur:

  1. Two surfaces that get stuck together must be smooth
  2. Must have some liquid lubricant between the surfaces
  3. The surfaces must be under pressure and push them together

A good example of fixation is a suction cup on a glass window. To make the suction cup stick you need to wet (lubrication) it and apply pressure to the window (flat surface). When the suction cup is pulled off the window it makes a popping sound as it releases the pressure.

So why should we break a fixation? If a fixation is left for to long a fusion in a joint can form. The term if you don’t use it you lose it really comes into play here. There are good fusions however. If you break a bone and have the doctor reset the bone with a pin, this will create a fixation and allow the bones to fuse back together in one piece. However, in a joint such as the Lumbar vertebra, if two ends of a bone are held together for a long period of time, they will also fuse together. The joint will become useless when the bones are fused and restrictions in the mobility will occur.

black-and-white-spine-banner-987x366A Fusion can happen to anyone. Fusions can be age and gender related. Fusion begins with fixation; fixation is cured by mobility; and mobility of the joints is one of the important things to keep our bodies moving pain free and healthy as we age.

About Katherine Smyth

Katherine Smyth, is a registered Acupuncturist with the CTCMA, personal trainer, yoga teacher, and counselor and owner of Squamish Mountain Medicine. Squamish Mountain Medicine is an alternative medicine clinic helping people live pain free without the use of prescription drugs. Squamish Mountain Medicine provides natural health options to people of all ages, with a specialty in pain, injuries, stress, depression & anxiety, headaches, digestive issues, women’s health, fertility and pregnancy care. Kat is a proud part of the integrative team of practitioners at Reach Physiotherapy Clinic in Squamish, British Columbia. To book an appointment or for more info go to www.squamishmountainmedicine.com

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