Chiropractors can help prepare the spine, muscles and joints for the demands of winter sports by improving range of motion, strengthening core muscles and aligning the spine for optimal body function.
Winter sports season is upon us so could you start by discussing the benefits of proactively getting a full chiropractic evaluation, even if you are feeling healthy and pain-free?
Dr. Luke Stringer: Yeah, absolutely. Winter sports are super fun for our patients if that’s skiing, snowboarding, hiking, or cross country skiing. But obviously all of those sports are pretty arduous on the body, a lot of physical activity.
A prerequisite for a healthy joint, if that’s the knee joint or the spine, is full range of motion. Secondly, we want balanced muscle strength to allow that joint to move with freedom and stability. So, if we go from the sedentary environment, where we’ve been sitting for 50 hours in a week and we’ve got hips that are locked up and then our cores got weak, our glutes aren’t engaging due to the inactivity, then we go throw some skis on and then we go skiing for eight hours a day for four days. If that joint is not moving well and the muscles in your core and your glutes aren’t engaging well, that’s going to create increased stress and tension within the joint, the tissue, and that’s also going to increase our chance for injury, pain and dysfunction.
So, by going to see a chiropractor, even though you may feel good, it’s just a great way to get validation on are you in alignment? Are those joints moving well? Is the tissue healthy, is that going to allow the joint to move well with freedom, stability? Are the muscles that we’re going to be using in this activity engaging so we’re not creating compensatory patterns? If all the above are not present, then obviously we go from zero into a desk during the winter, we go out to Vail and we go skiing for a week then there’s a very good chance you’re going to get back and be injured and or maybe not injured, but creating that compensatory pattern. So, the more you move, the more we compensate, the more we compensate, the increased chance we have of obviously pain and dysfunction within the joint and the spine.
How can chiropractic adjustments to the spine help prepare the body for sports?
Dr. Luke Stringer: Chiropractic adjustments are a great way to improve joint mobility within the axial spine. So, if your spine or your appendicular spine, it’s all the joints other than the spine and obviously your joints that’s fixed and it’s not moving well, it’s going to increase stress and tension within the joint, the tissue and the nerve. So obviously that’s going to increase the chance for compensation and injury. So, an adjustment can remove that subluxation, that fixation, and improve joint mobility. Now unfortunately, adjustments aren’t home runs, so there is no silver bullet to it, but chiropractic care just works in repetition.
If you’ve got a big ski trip you’ve got coming up and you’re concerned about your alignment or poor joint function or some compensating patterns, then get an adjustment, supplement that with some good soft tissue therapy to improve tissue health, so that allows the joint to move with freedom and stability. And then be evaluated, for example, the posterior chain function at the back of your body and all the muscles that are in the back of the body that keep you upright and stable through movement, seeing if there’s any dysfunction from there. And if there is, then great, let’s clean it out with adjustments, soft tissue therapy and then some physical therapy and that’s going to put you in a good position to, if it’s skiing, snowboarding, cross country skiing, hiking, to then go and enjoy that sport, move well, feel well and obviously reduce the chance of injury.
Having good range of motion in joints is critical for participating in sports. How can chiropractic care get joints working properly with optimal range of motion?
Dr. Luke Stringer: Full range of motion is a prerequisite for a healthy joint. So, like we just discussed, chiropractic care can do exactly that. First and foremost, evaluate it for its range of motion and then objectively measure the decrease in range of motion. This can be done through a JTAC analysis or just the visual analysis, but obviously measuring where we reduce. Obviously if you have a reduction in range of motion, it increases stress and tension in the joint, tissue, and nerves and contributes to pain and dysfunction. From there you can design a plan to improve the range of motion. So that should be a combination of spinal adjustments, soft tissue therapy of the joint, possibly some traction to the joint and to the spine, and then obviously supplementing that with some good mobility work.
So active range of motion, passive range of motion, the structures that cross the joint. And obviously by going through that regimen we should be able to see improvement in how the joint moves and how it moves with freedom and stability. And by doing that you can restore range of motion. If you’ve got full range of motion and balanced muscle strength, then your chance for pain and dysfunction is greatly reduced compared to someone who’s not moving well with poor tissue health and with poor essentially biomechanics, that’s going to increase your chance for pain and injury.
Many winter sports require intense muscle control and balance. How can chiropractic care help stabilize and strengthen muscles?
Dr. Luke Stringer: The beauty of chiropractic care is, you go through chiropractic school, we all take the same curriculum, we all take the same board exam, but when you get out into the field, you can practice however you like. So, I have a lot of friends who are sports specific chiropractors. Now you don’t have to be a sports specific chiropractor to stable and strengthen the muscles, but I feel a blended approach to how you’re treating conditions is the best approach.
Chiropractic care should be delivering adjustments that improves range of motion, should be involved in some soft tissue therapy to break down adhesive changes that improves the joint to move well. And a detailed analysis of an orthopedic exam of the muscles that you’re going to be using. So those deep neck flexors, muscles between your shoulder blades, the pelvic floor muscles, the glutes, the hamstring muscles.
Go through the orthopedic test, go through the functional exam, figure out where the weakness and imbalances are, and then from there prescribe physical therapy, an exercise regimen to address those imbalances and those weaknesses. Then we have a joint that’s moving well with healthy muscle tissue that’s stabilizing the joint through movement and then we’re engaging the muscles that are essentially going to be moving. So, we have strength within the movement and that’s essentially how we’re going to move well, feel good and function good when we’re doing all these awesome winter sports.
If someone is recovering from a soft tissue injury, how can chiropractic care help facilitate recovery to get them ready for their favorite winter sport?
Dr. Luke Stringer: Soft tissue injuries are super common in sports. So typically, soft tissue injury is a sprain, strain of the muscle tissue. So first and foremost, you want to follow the RICE protocol. Rest, so if you’re not physically needing to use the joint, don’t. Ice, you want to ice for 20 minutes on, hour or two off, 20 minutes on, hour or two off. You want to compress the joint if possible. So, for example, if you rolled your ankle out hiking, you want to wrap that ankle, so obviously foot down in towards the cardiovascular system. Then you want to elevate that ankle or for example that joint so you drain away. The first goal of any soft tissue injury is to reduce inflammation. Now you could add other therapies such as e-stimulation, red light therapy, chiropractic can have the scope of practice to do all the above.
Once the inflammation is reduced, the next thing you want to do is improve range of motion within the joint. So that’s mobility exercises within the joint. Once we start to see improvement in range of motion, then obviously that’s when we want to start stabilizing, strengthening the joint. So, it depends what the soft tissue injury is, it depends on the severity of it, but essentially the algorithm is reduce inflammation, improve mobility, create stability, proprioceptive patterns and then stabilize and strengthen that joint, through all the above adjustments, soft tissue therapy and physical therapy.
Chiropractors have the scope to do that. And if you are going to city to see a chiropractor to make sure that that’s the way they practice and they’re not just adjusting the upper two joints in your neck to fix an ankle sprain. And by following through on that protocol, you’re going to get rid of the inflammation, improve joint mobility, stabilize, strengthen, and then obviously you’re going to be back out there, enjoying your favorite winter sport.
If you are interested in speaking with Dr. Luke Stringer visit www.southloopchiropractor.com or call (312) 987-4878 to schedule an appointment.