Full range of motion is a prerequisite for a healthy joint and the ability to move with stability and strength. Limited range of motion in a joint like the spine, hip, knee, ankle, wrist, or elbow is going to increase the stress and tension within the joint. Over time that is going to break the joint down and produce weak and flexible soft tissue in and around the joint which will increase the chance of injury.
Joints are designed to move a ton during sports play and all the muscles that cross it and anchor into it are designed to move it with stability. If the joint is not moving well, then the soft tissue, muscles, ligaments and tendons are going to have to work harder than they should. So, over time, if they’re working harder than they should, they’re going to break down. By breaking down, they force what’s called adhesion. Adhesion is like chewing gum in a muscle. It’s just weak, fibrous collagenous tissue. It’s just weak and inflexible. If we have adhesion in a joint, it is going to continue to limit our range of motion, which is going to increase the stress and tension within the joint. That can manifest as injury, dysfunction or can hide itself for a long period of time, create degenerative changes, et cetera.
A chiropractor can perform an evaluation of joint function. They will take you through a detailed functional exam, an orthopedic exam, a neurological exam, and maybe take some x-rays if they feel they are needed. The evaluation will identify where you’re deficient in your range of motion or your muscle imbalance. It will give you peace of mind before starting a sports season. We want to try and be proactive in how we address our healthcare, particularly for sports.
During an evaluation with a chiropractor, if they find that a joint is not moving well, they can adjust the joint to get it back in alignment. Adjustments aren’t home runs, so they need to then supplement that with some soft tissue work, figure out which tissue crosses the joint because they are the muscles that move the joints. And obviously, work those muscles through their intended range of motion while they have them under tension and clinically clean out adhesion.
By performing a functional exam, a chiropractor can figure out where the muscles are deficient. For example, our hamstrings and our glutes physically move us along, but if we’re sitting in that flex position, well, those big muscles that pick up our movement slowly switch off. Then the big muscles in your lower back dominate. So, now when you’re on the football field, for example, and you’re running around, well, if the hamstrings and glutes aren’t engaging before your lower back, that’s going to increase stress and tension in the lower back. Obviously, over time that’s going to break us down.
By getting evaluated by a chiropractor, they can determine that your right hamstring’s not engaging, and your left glute’s not engaging. They can prescribe some strengthening work to engage and fire up the hamstring and the glute which is going to allow for better gait function. Better gait function can allow for better functionality on the field, help us perform better, and also decrease the chance of injury.
You may feel like you’re walking or you’re running well, but if you go through a joint evaluation, you might see that your hip shifted and it’s creating a shift and some rotation in your pelvis, which is a shift in your lumbar spine. If you start playing sports you might be okay for a little bit but over time the more repetition you put into that joint, the more chance it has of failing, resulting in injury and dysfunction.
Chiropractic care is great for all athletes. If you are an athlete, you should be seeing a chiropractor. Any pro sports team has a chiropractor. I have several colleagues that only treat professional athletes. They’re maximizing every tool they can to get that extra 5, 10% out of their performance.
A chiropractor can improve the mobility within the joint, break down scar tissue and restore health to the tissue using soft tissue techniques, and balance the muscle strength. By doing that, the joints are going to move well with good stability and balanced muscle strength and that’s going to allow us to perform and function at our best and decrease the chance of injury. Physical therapy can then be prescribed to stabilize and strengthen joints further. Chiropractors can address mobility, stability, strength, and all the things between them.