Athletes of all types are seeing chiropractors to maximize their bodies’ potential to perform at its highest level. Chiropractic care can not only improve athletic performance, it can help prevent injuries and help athletes recover from injuries faster.
What are the most important reasons athletes should see a chiropractor?
Dr. Luke Stringer: Great question Liz. We have to ask ourselves what type of athlete are you and what level of athlete are you? Obviously, at the top of the pyramid, we have professional athletes. You wouldn’t find a professional organization in America named basketball, baseball, football, soccer, that don’t have a chiropractor on staff, they all have one. But the athletes that we tend to see in the clinic, yes, we see professional athletes, but we call them the weekend warriors, those athletes that work really hard in a corporate job, and they love to work out. CrossFit, lifting weights, running marathons.
The reason professional athletes are seeing chiropractors is to get that last two or three percent out of their bodies to perform at an optimal level. So, they can obviously perform at a really high level. And obviously by performing at a high level particularly in America, that’s how you get paid the big bucks, right? So professional athletes really don’t leave any stone unturned.
Russell Wilson has two or three chiropractors on staff. James Harrison, a former Steelers Linebacker had two or three chiropractors on staff. They were paying six figures a year just to maintain bodies so they could function at a high level because essentially that’s their job.
So, for me, whenever we speak to our patients that just really enjoy to work out, our runners, our CrossFitters, it’s essentially, why wouldn’t you utilize what the professional athletes are utilizing? You could maximize your performance when running a marathon or performing a CrossFit game, et cetera.
There’s many really, really good reasons you should see a chiropractor. So, if we go through it could be proactive to make sure the spine is in alignment and it’s moving well so you can accommodate the load that you’re going to put on your back when squatting. It might be to make sure your hips are in alignment and they function well so when you run a Chicago marathon, they are moving in alignment so you are not going to be compensating, creating hip, low back pain or knee or ankle pain.
But on the flip side of that it might be from an injury. You ran a marathon, you had poor hip alignment, poor glute function, which created shifts in the low back, which created knee pain and low back pain. So, you might want to see a chiropractor on a reactive basis, to treat an injury.
There are many different ways to see a chiropractor. And unfortunately, chiropractors kind of get pigeonholed. And we discussed this on previous podcasts with you, Liz. There are many different ways you can practice as a chiropractor. It’s the beauty and the negative of the profession. It all depends on what type of care you’re looking for. And as athletes, you need it all. You need to be getting adjusted, you need to be doing physical therapy, you need to be doing soft tissue therapy. So, you’ve got to make sure you find the right type of chiropractor for you if you’re going to maximize seeing a chiropractor.
But for me, we always want to be proactive, right? So, if you’re going to run a marathon, you’re going to start adding 50, 60, 70 miles a week into your running routine and you haven’t done that before, that’s a massive amount of repetitive stress. So go and see your chiropractor to make sure you can handle that repetitive stress. Because it is going to take less time, energy, and effort than not seeing a chiropractor, getting injured, and then have to deal with an injury and also running a marathon if that makes sense.
What type of chiropractic treatments are most commonly performed on athletes?
Dr. Luke Stringer: Great question, Liz. And I feel like the treatments professional athletes get, or the weekend warriors, are the same treatments that the average Joe gets who sits in his or her desk for 50-60 hours a week. All depends on the case, right? If you’re in pain because the joint shifted in your low back and it’s not moving well, it’s compressing the nerve, then you need to get adjusted. If you’re running and you’re getting hip, low back, knee, or ankle pain, or is that coming from a muscle imbalance? So, we need to evaluate what’s firing in what we call the posterior, in the hamstring, the glutes, the low back, the pelvic floor. Obviously, that’s being proactive, right? If you’re injured, what’s the injury? If you rolled your ankle, well, obviously we need to get rid of the inflammation, break down the scar tissue, stabilize the foot and the ankle.
Chiropractors, when they go through school, essentially have a broad spectrum of curriculum. And that curriculum is a real doctor of chiropractic. So, you’ve got a lot of curriculum based upon what medical doctors train on sickness and disease, what physical therapists train on in terms of more on the physical therapy side, joint tissue function activation, and obviously specializing in the treatment of the spine. Remember you have two types or two parts of the spine. You have the actual spine, which is your spine and you have your appendicular spine which all the extremities anchor into it, 80% of the extremities anchor into the spine. So, seeing the chiropractor isn’t just for neck and low back pain. For example, they can treat many other disabilities within their body. So, find a good chiropractor and you should be in good shape treating proactively or reactively based on your injury and or the type of activity you’d like to perform.
How does chiropractic care help athletes who are suffering from repetitive motion injuries?
Dr. Luke Stringer: If you’re an athlete, there’s obviously going to be a lot of repetition in your activity, right? If you’re a runner or you’re a CrossFitter. So first and foremost, if it’s an injury, the first protocol is let’s get rid of the inflammation and restore range of motion, right? So, how do you do that? You’ve got to do that through adjustments and physical therapy and modalities. Second phase is let’s break down scar tissue in the joint that’s being affected so, for example, in a rotator cuff, because that’s going to create weakness in the joint,
Then we’ve got to stabilize. So obviously soft tissue therapy, more adjustments, more stability, and then strengthening work. So essentially, as a chiropractor, every injury is going to be different. We just have to figure out exactly what type of injury it is and what type of injury that dysfunction is causing. So, repetitive motion injuries are usually chronic injuries that happen over time, that lead to limited range of motion and chronically breakdown the soft issue and create misalignments in a joint. Obviously, those are the things that you need to focus on when treating an injury.
For healthy athletes, are there chiropractic techniques that help prevent injuries and aid in recovery?
Dr. Luke Stringer: Absolutely. I wouldn’t necessarily pigeonhole us, everything falls within the chiropractic banner, but chiropractic is quite broad. But for athletes, for example, I have a good friend who is the head of the medical department at FC Copenhagen, a professional soccer team out in Denmark. And he practices a technique called applied kinesiology. So, every player who goes out to training, and if that’s just training or it’s a match, he will evaluate their kinesiology. So, he’ll take all the extremities, so the legs, the arms, the spine through certain tests, and they’ll see where that limb is deficient, or is creating weakness. He will then adjust the joint, which houses the nerve that innervates that body part. And retest them. And I’ve been there, and I’ve witnessed it. It’s really cool. They’ll come on the table, take a bunch of checks and they’ll see some weakness in the left extremity. So, they will adjust for example, their low back, re-check it in the left leg, and switch it on.
So essentially imagine you’ve got to warm up the body and warming up the spine is a really great way of switching things on. Injury prevention is just good recovery, right? So, what aids into good recovery? Which is good hydration, getting in the right fluids, getting in the right food. A lot of chiropractors specialize in nutrition, absolutely. And then good recovery techniques. So, if you’re a high-level athlete or using the Nordic socks, you take an ice bath or you’re doing some light swimming or walking on a treadmill after a game to get the blood oxygen pumped around the body to help recovery. So there are loads of different ways you can do it. And chiropractors are absolutely versed in being able to help proactively and reactively, before and after exercise.
How can athletes improve their performance with regular chiropractic care?
Dr. Luke Stringer: You’re sure to find a professional athlete, right at the top of the game, who does have a chiropractor on speed dial, Liz. Obviously, if we just focus on range of motion, range of motion within the joint, if it’s the spine or the extremity, is paramount for performance. Imagine you’re going up to catch a ball and your shoulder is limited in its range of motion. Well, that’s an issue because you can’t get your arm up there, or you get your arm up there, but it’s weak because you’ve got impingement in the nerve in your neck and you can’t smack that ball. So, chiropractors can, your assessment evaluation, improve the range of motion of that joint through adjustments or through soft tissue therapy.
And then obviously on the back of that, they can supplement that with strict exercise you should be doing to stabilize and strengthen a joint. So professional athletes are seeing chiropractors before or after games regularly throughout the week just to maintain good alignment. Good alignment allows good range of motion. Good range of motion allows good load into the joint and the tissue. Good load supplemented with balance strength allows for optimal function on a bio mechanical level. So, if you’re an athlete, I would highly recommend getting you to see a chiropractor.
If you are interested in speaking with Dr. Luke Stringer visit www.southloopchiropractor.com or call (312) 987-4878 to schedule an appointment.