It’s safe to say, there are a lot of unique niches out on the internet. Whether you enjoy watching attractive women shove raw meat into plastic soda bottles or like listening to spine-tingling ASMR videos, there is certainly something for everyone, even for those with chronic neck and back pain.
Chiropractic content has been booming on social platforms like Instagram, TikTok and YouTube for quite some time now. Accounts like @occhiropractor, @drmichaelvan and @drralphnap — all of whom are chiropractors — upload videos of themselves demonstrating chiropractic adjustments on willing participants, contorting their patients, pressing firmly on their backs or swiftly thrusting their necks to one side, delivering a loud, satisfying (sometimes alarming) CRACK.
While there now seems to be an endless stream of chiropractic content creators, Dr. Alex and Dr. Mike, two conventionally attractive male chiropractors with practices in Orange County, have purportedly become very successful figures in the genre, boasting 2.6 and 1.2 million followers on TikTok respectively and over a hundred thousand followers each on Instagram. And there are many others just like them.
But why are some seemingly simple videos of chiropractors going to town on strangers’ backs and necks so extremely popular? Is it the crisp sound of a satisfying crack? Is it the hunky chiropractors themselves? Or could it be that we enjoy watching others experience something most of us desperately want: to have all that built-up tension in our joints released … by a hot person.
Well, turns out it’s a little bit of everything, and then some.
“As a bad back sufferer of nearly 30 years, I find them interesting from a ‘would that work for me?’ point of view,” says Chris Moore, an avid watcher of spine cracking videos. “It’s also oddly satisfying when you hear the crack.”
“I enjoy cracking my own bones, and I enjoy getting chiropractic adjustments a lot. However, they are rather expensive, and prove to have very little results other than the immense satisfaction of producing loud cracking noises,” adds Amélie Gagne. “Watching others being adjusted is somewhat calming and satisfying. The lounder the crack, the more soothing the effects.”
With the popularity of ASMR, it’s no surprise, really, that chiropractic adjustment videos, which possess similar characteristics, have gone viral. For those unacquainted, ASMR stands for “autonomous sensory meridian response,” which is essentially a tingling sensation some experience when exposed to certain sounds, visuals or physical touch that can induce a soothing or comforting feeling.
“The reason why I absolutely love these videos is that the sound of the crack is felt very relaxing, almost like it is being done to me,” says Erica Tan, another chiropractic adjustment video fanatic. “The sound is very therapeutic in nature and acts as a sedative. I am yet to find out if there is any scientific backing to it but I feel very relaxed after watching such videos.”
There is some science behind the sensations viewers experience when watching such videos.
“Joint-cracking videos can have the appeal of watching an expert gymnast stick a dangerous landing. The viewer feels the instant joy, relief and satisfaction of the gymnast, or in this case, the patient,” explains Dr. Craig Richard, founder of ASMRUniversity.com and host of the ASMR podcast, Sleep Whispers.
“The cracking sounds, the patient’s expressions, and the clinician’s smile all confirm the immediate success. The viewer feels a wave of relief that can give a feeling of exhilaration and satisfaction. The similarity to an ASMR scenario is the trust and care that is happening between two individuals.”
Though they’re not entirely the same, Richard notes.
“The dissimilarity is ASMR scenarios tend to be quiet, gentle scenarios that result in a decreased heart rate and feeling of relaxation for the viewer or participant. The viewer and the participant or client in joint-cracking videos are likely experiencing an increased heart rate and feelings of excitement and joy,” he notes. “ So both do lead to satisfaction, but ASMR videos give the viewer greater comfort and relaxation-associated satisfaction, and joint-cracking videos give the viewer greater joy and alertness-associated satisfaction. Another way to confirm this core difference is that ASMR videos are commonly used to help people fall asleep, whereas joint-cracking videos are not.”
Clearly, though, the videos are providing viewers with a sense of satisfaction, and possibly even sexual satisfaction.
“I’m a big fan of chiropractor videos. There’s a lot of strange niches whether it be ASMR or muckbang videos, so the idea people enjoy watching others getting their necks cracked isn’t that crazy,” says John Frigo, an eCommerce Manager who is a particular fan of Dr. Gregory Johnson, a Houston chiropractor with nearly 500,000 subscribers and is famous for his specialized crack called the “Ringer Dinger.”
“But another thing I notice about many of these videos,” adds Frigo, “is that the chiropractors use very attractive women, or scantily clad women to demonstrate on. So you have people watching these videos for a number of different reasons.”
Take a quick scroll through any popular chiropractor’s page and you’ll find a variety of genders, ages and body types getting cracked, but there are certainly videos that can raise a few eyebrows, specifically ones featuring young attractive women in tight workout gear. Not to mention, the chiropractic method is inherently intimate — which isn’t a bad thing — but does add a somewhat voyeuristic aspect once you bring a camera into sessions, and the moaning, groaning and close contact all certainly feels heightened as a viewer.
“My immediate reaction is that there is absolutely a sexual component even while these videos aren’t explicit,” says Sarah Melancon, Ph.D., a sociologist, clinical sexologist and resident expert at The Sex Toy Collective. “The camera angles certainly don’t appear to be an accident.” And surely the suggestive nature of some of these videos isn’t hindering engagement.
Some of these more questionable or salacious videos could also be a cause of concern for viewers, clients or future patients, notes Melancon.
“I think ethics is a potential issue for any professional asking to film their clients and patients, regardless of their field,” she says. “ In this case, does it compromise the doctor-patient relationship in some way? And is that interfering with the actual care received? Are practitioners only asking attractive women to be recorded, and is this discriminatory or a form of sexual harassment?” There is also the very real possibility that some of these purported clients are actually just paid models or actors.
“It is possible these particular videos are real adjustments but not real patients,” adds Melancon.
Overall, though, it doesn’t sound like viewers care all that much, and mainly consume chiropractic content for the calming, relaxing and satisfying sensations it often yields.
“There is plenty of non-sexualized content of chiropractic adjustments on YouTube and social media,” continues Melancon. “In general, people seem to love hearing and seeing bones crack. Many people love the relief of having their entire spine pop all the way down, so I imagine watching these videos provides some degree of relaxation.”
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