It's termed as "spinal manipulation" by spinal physiotherapists, and "spinal adjustments" by chiropractors and osteopaths, but they're essentially the same thing:
The result of a successful manipulation or adjustment is a
sound and often with immediate pain/discomfort relief to the patient.
The popping and cracking experiences are mainly the sudden release of gases that are trapped in the fluid within the joint, and once that happens, the surface pressure of the joint capsule reduces immediately. Patients usually report also a sense of relief, decreased muscle pains.
For simple cases of patients with purely acute spine pain with no neurological signs and no medical contraindications, spinal manipulation can be effective.
However, for patients whose spinal pain is one of the conditions (eg with other co-morbidities) or with neurological symptoms, it is not clear to proceed or the outcomes. Generally spinal adjustments or manipulations isn't for everyone.
Spinal manipulations/adjustments are considered aggressive treatment techniques compared to other gentler techniques like
- hence the physiotherapist need to assess and be certain of the health and quality of the joint before performing any manipulations.
Generally spinal manipulations done by a spinal physiotherapist is safe and can be effective when done safely, properly and when the above conditions are met - it's very effective and quick to help patients with certain conditions eg wry neck ie when a patient wake up with their neck stuck in a specific painful position.
Manipulation in the hands of an experienced spinal physiotherapist will improve the range to near-full/normal almost immediately.