We massage therapists are not allowed to do spinal manipulations, and rightly so! We are not chiropractors or osteopaths, and even though we get to know the spine pretty well in our training, we don’t get into it the way these doctors do. Occasionally, a client will ask for a little back cracking, and I always explain this and politely decline.
We were taught, however, that “spontaneous adjustments” may occur, and indeed they do! It makes sense. There are lots of little muscles that attach to your vertebrae, weaving together to keep you upright and moveable. When these wee muscles shorten, they tug on your vertebrae and may pull your spine a little out of whack. Releasing these muscles allows the bones to slide back into place. It’s not uncommon to hear pops and cracks when working the back as muscles release the spine from their overzealous clutches. By working on the muscles, we allow the spine to return to its natural state, which is not the same at all as forcing it or manipulating bones directly (I have nothing against that when done by a trained professional, but it’s tricky business if you don’t have the training).
I love the phrase “spontaneous adjustment;” it tickles me every time I hear it. Going for a massage? Look out! Spontaneous adjustments may occur! Your spine may click back into place! But it doesn’t end there. Your may also experience a spontaneous attitude adjustment, the grumbles of your week giving way to calm. You may experience spontaneous acceptance of your body, spontaneous compassion for yourself and others.
Every massage is different. These things may or may not happen in your session. As massage therapists, we are not there to force bones or attitudes back into place. We are there to release the muscles and whatever else wants to go with them. But there is always the possibility, when you get on the table: spontaneous adjustments may occur.