Chiropractic care is one of many forms of natural health care, specifically a non-invasive, drug-free alternative that can help patients find relief from a variety of musculoskeletal issues. Athletes in particular, can greatly benefit from chiropractic treatments both before and after they practice and perform.
Professional sports leagues including Major League Baseball (MLB) along with the National Football League (NFL) have recognized these benefits for years, with most teams employing their own official sports chiropractor. National University of Health Sciences (NUHS) graduates Marc Legere, DC, and Randy Cybulski, DC, (who himself was an NFL player earlier) have also treated these professional athletes in private practice.
Beyond the United States, athletes from many other parts of the world utilize chiropractic treatment, as well. At the 2016 Olympics Games, I treated these athletes first-hand. As part of the Olympic Village polyclinic sports medicine staff, I saw a wide variety of treatment needs. Many athletes were referred to us for neck, low back and extremity conditions. We helped them achieve their goals by getting them back into play after an injury, or helping them increase their strength and flexibility so they could perform at their optimum level.
A chiropractic sports physician has the tools and skills necessary to optimize the performance of an individual’s musculoskeletal system, as well as their nervous system. This specialized training allows sports chiropractors to provide therapies that are geared towards maintaining strength and rebounding after an injury. It’s also important to help athletes avoid injuries altogether, or if that’s not possible, to effectively manage the associated pain and healing.
Here are five important reasons why chiropractic treatment is essential for athletes:
1. Chiropractic treatment leads to improved range of motion.
One of the biggest benefits of regular chiropractic treatments is improved range of motion. Athletes put a lot of pressure on their bodies every time they train, and physically intense activities can create problems with spinal alignment and movement. An athlete can easily end up with stiffness and pain in their joints. This may cause their range of motion to be limited, thereby inhibiting their overall athletic performance. Receiving the appropriate chiropractic care can help undo the damage and prevent injuries before they occur, all while promoting movement that’s pain-free.
2. Chiropractic treatment gives athletes shortened healing time.
Even when injuries can’t be prevented, chiropractic care can help to shorten healing time for a variety of ailments. For example, neck and head injuries can lead to headaches that originate from a patient’s neck. By adjusting an athlete’s neck, a chiropractor can provide relief from these troublesome and often debilitating headaches. Shoulder manipulation can be added to rehabilitation protocols to reduce pain and improve outcomes amongst athletes with shoulder injuries. Even ankle sprains can heal more efficiently with the help of adjustments that reduce pain, improve function, and increase motion.
3. Receiving chiropractic treatment allows for reduced pain.
Active people, even the strongest athletes, can suffer from back pain, particularly in the lower back. A chiropractor knows exactly how to work with a sensitive spine to promote proper alignment and movement. Therefore, in addition to restoring function, chiropractors can recommend treatments that will reduce all types of back pain both in the short-term and for the long run.
A growing amount of research confirms spinal manipulation as an effective form of pain relief. An April 2017 study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association found that spinal manipulation was associated with statistically significant improvements in both pain and function with no major adverse side effects.
4. Less prescription drugs are needed for athletes who receive chiropractic treatment.
While aches can be, and often are, treated with pain medications, cortisone shots, and other drugs that provide short-term relief, chiropractic care gives athletes a drug-free alternative that can reduce, or even eliminate, their pain. This also means that athletes won’t be subjected to the side effects or dependencies that commonly arise from the use of prescription medication.
In fact, the widespread dependency on opioids in the United States has prompted the American College of Physicians to update their guidelines regarding low back pain—one of the most common reasons doctors prescribe opioids. The group now suggests those with low back pain use various complementary and alternative medicine techniques including spinal manipulation before resorting to prescription medication.
5. Chiropractic treatment provides a non-invasive treatment option.
Chiropractic care is non-invasive, and it can provide relief from injuries throughout the body, not just neck and back injuries. It may even serve as a viable alternative to invasive procedures such as surgeries that would keep athletes sidelined during a long recovery period. Treatment methods, such as electrical muscle stimulation, functional dry needling, the Graston Technique, and the Active Release Technique, can be used to care for athletes suffering from a variety of injuries.
Ultimately, if you’re an athlete who wants to maintain your physical strength and range of motion, or if you want to recover from an injury without the use of prescriptions and invasive treatments, you may want to consider seeing a chiropractor on a regular basis. You may be surprised by how much better you feel and how much your performance improves when your body is in alignment and pain-free!