Weird, but True: Listening to Others Crack Their Bones Helped Me Find Relief

Photo: Getty/W+G Creative
“You’re still kicking,” I can hear Gregory Johnson, DC, say in his signature twang as he lightly karate chops a person’s knees to test their reflexes. He had just finishing decompressing the person’s spine by securing the person’s hips on a table with padded bars, and using a white, everyday towel around their neck, pulling their head slightly from their body in one swift motion. A huge cr-ra-ck can be heard when he does this (the move he's termed the "ring dinger"), as the patient’s eyes go wide. I smile at my screen, and arch my back in bed, hoping to get a slight crack. I close my computer, then my eyes, and drift off to sleep.

Sure, there’s Dr. Johnson from Texas (“Your Houston Chiropractor”) with his patented ring dinger. There’s also Dr. Rahim from California, whose calm nature and amazing before-and-afters makes me want to book a flight to Los Angeles. There’s Dr. Brenda Mondragon from D.C., who wears crazy leggings and spends a good portion of her time with the patient working out trigger or pressure points in the muscle before she cracks them like a glow stick. There’s Dr. Joseph Cipriano in Greenville, South Carolina, who uses a chin strap apparatus to decompress the patient’s spine—much like Dr. Johnson in Houston, just with a different piece of equipment (no towel here). And there are so many more.

They’ve become my late-night watches. Their videos—which rack up thousands, sometimes millions of views in a matter of days—make me feel… okay. Good, even. The cracking and popping sounds as gas is released from their joints fill me with ease, better than any melatonin gummy or pill I’ve taken. As their bodies decompress, I decompress. Call it ASMR, call it a fascination with how crunchy everyone’s bones are, call it what you will: It’s delightfully therapeutic and certainly sleep-inducing.

They say things change in your thirties. If 30 was a life-changer, 31 was a life-challenger. In one year, I was laid off, got a new job, felt awful, left that job, and went freelance (aka became a self-employed writer). This was happening all whilst going through a mind-consuming health scare that nearly seems trivial now, but which made it feel almost fruitless to try and get my life “back on track,” when it felt like the track was being pulled out, much like a rug, from beneath me. The loss of a loved one, family members' depression issues, and the financial strains of my current predicament and doctor’s appointments continued the pile-on, all while navigating life as a single media professional in a crazy expensive city. Did I mention I was traveling a lot for my writing assignments? Many would say I was burnt out. But the truth is, I was past the point of burnout. I was depleted.

I rarely cry out of sadness—my tears always stem from frustration and exhaustion, and always at the most inopportune times. My burnout and worrying kept me up at night, tears welling up around 2 a.m., and I wondered what would happen if I continued down this path of little sleep. In the midst of this, I would watch hours of YouTube at night, waiting for the moment when I would finally drift off, the Saturday Night Live skits or Try Guys videos a mere internet musical score to my dreams.

It was a supercut video of cracks—different chiropractors telling patients to push their heads back, forward, or some other direction before a cacophony of sounds arose from their bodies.

It was one of these late-night binges that led me to a chiropractic video. It was a supercut video of cracks—different chiropractors telling patients to push their heads back, forward, or some other direction before a cacophony of sounds arose from their bodies. Click after click, crack after crack, adjustment after adjustment, I began to learn the more identifiable YouTube chiropractors, their treatments becoming familiar to me, their voices relaxing me into a deep state of sleep.

I’m not the only one to find these videos a soothing way to get some zzzs. The commenters abound, with inside jokes among them, referencing other chiropractors, moves, and aches. “Crack addicts,” as they’re sometimes (unfortunately) called (stemming from Dr. Johnson’s fan group, but now diversifying their YouTube intake) are a known collective—and they’re sometimes even referenced in videos by name by the chiropractors themselves. Merch actually exists, and you can rep your favorite YouTube bone adjuster with a hat, mug, or shirt. Time stamps by first commenters are heavily upvoted, so you can skip to the “good” cracks. So many of us reference the videos as a sleeping aid in the comments. It’s a community, and one that made me laugh with every scroll; with every remark; with every well-timed “he’s still kickin’” sentence.

As things in life often do, time went on, things changed, and my sleep—it eventually got better. I got a new job (oh hey), I finished up lucrative writing assignments that could pay off my bills, and everything, for the most part, became just slightly easier to deal with. And the chiropractic videos? They're still in heavy rotation. A sleep-inducing reminder that things can get better, it just takes a bit of adjusting.

There are millions of ASMR videos on YouTube, but these 9 will help you fall asleep fast. Plus, how to choose a chiropractor.

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