This article was originally published on the Wellness Solutions Centers blog on September 4, 2018.
Athletics are a huge part of our society, as we enjoy not only participating in them but also watching them. College football and the NFL are starting their seasons, baseball is in its stretch run, and other events like the US Open in tennis vie for our attention. With schools getting back in session, it is also time for fall sports to begin, and many of our kids will be training, practicing, and playing for long hours during the week. It is estimated that 30 million children now participate in organized sports including soccer, football, swimming, gymnastics, hockey, basketball and baseball.
In competitive sports, the difference between winning and losing is sometimes measured in milliseconds. Athletes need every little bit of strength, speed, and flexibility they can muster. They also need to stay on the field. Honestly, the best ability for an athlete is their availability. An athlete cannot help his or her team on the sidelines.
Athletes Do Benefit from Chiropractic Care
Athletes have been benefiting from chiropractic care for many years; however, it has only recently been receiving attention from the media. Athletes of all types, from the weekend warrior to the world-class athlete, utilize chiropractic because it is a drug-free way to better health and performance. It is not only about treating injuries. Athletes often seek care to prevent injuries before they occur and to improve performance. They want to gain an edge on the competition. Sean Atkins, a PhD Exercise Physiologist, states, “I would estimate that in excess of 90% of all world-class athletes use chiropractic care to prevent injuries and to increase their performance potential.” Famous chiropractic advocates include Tom Brady, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth, Cole Hamels, Jerry Rice, Usain Bolt, and many more. All NFL teams employ on-staff chiropractors. So do 72 percent of PGA golfers and the majority of NBA, MLB and NHL teams.
Chiropractors Can Help Treat to Get the Athlete Back on the Field Quicker
Concussions are a major, hot button topic right now in society, and they are also a very common sports-related injury. Between 2.5 and 4 million concussions happen per year, and the scary thing is that 50 to 80 percent of concussions that happen on the field are unreported or undiagnosed. We used to call it getting your bell rung, and you would get thrown right back in the game. However, we now take them much more seriously because we know how damaging they can be to the brain. 60 percent of head traumas occur while playing football, and the symptoms of a concussion include headaches, pain in the neck, vertigo, difficulty reading, difficulty speaking, lack of focus and concentration. Many people who suffer a concussion also experience damage to the neck and should be checked by a chiropractor for misalignment because that can lead to some of the concussion symptoms. However, if you suspect that someone has experienced a concussion, get the athlete to a specialist who can help rehab the brain too. We refer to a chiropractic neurologist who specializes in these types of injuries.
Concussions are a type of injury that chiropractors can’t prevent but can help treat to get the athlete back on the field quicker; however, many injuries can be avoided before they occur. These are the sprains, strains, and other overuse injuries caused by small, but repetitive injuries to the body’s tissues, joints, and spinal column resulting in chronic health conditions. A major key in preventing injuries and improving athletic performance relates to the value of keeping the body in alignment and the soft tissues healthy. Athletes must move well, and as Dr. Dane likes to say, “posture follows movement like a shadow.” If someone has proper posture, then chances are that they will move well. Alignment of the spine and body are crucial to proper movement. Athletes such as sprinters and gymnasts often have very good upright posture, and it is not a surprise that they perform at high levels. However, many athletes that we see in our practice do not move correctly. They have tightness, immobility, and alignment issues in their neck, shoulders, mid-back, pelvis and hips. This is obviously not good and hampers performance and increases the likelihood for injury. For example, if a golfer does not have good mid-back mobility, then the shoulders and low back will take on more responsibility and he or she will be more susceptible to injury in those areas. He or she will also not be able to hit as long or straight because the mechanics of their swing will be altered.
Essentially, proper bio-mechanical structure allows athletes to achieve and maintain their optimal level of performance—safely and naturally. There is a growing body of research and case studies which clearly show the relationship between chiropractic care and athletic performance. A Canadian research team included chiropractic care in the rehabilitation program of 16 injured female long distance runners. Not only did these runners recover quickly, 7 of them scored “personal best” performances while under chiropractic care. A landmark research effort from the New Zealand School of Chiropractic and the University of Auckland, evaluated the effects chiropractic adjustments on reaction times. There was a marked improvement for the group that received an adjustment over the group that got nothing but rest. The group that received the chiropractic adjustment showed a decrease in reaction time of 97 milliseconds, representing a 14.8% faster reaction time! What baseball or tennis player, for example, wouldn’t benefit from a quicker reaction time?
Improve Athletic Performance
If you want to improve your (or a child’s) athletic performance and give yourself the best chance to stay in the game, then there are some things that you can do outside of getting adjusted. One key would be to become familiar with upper and lower cross syndromes. Many times, we see people with rounded shoulders, forward heads, pelvises that are tilting forward, and these come with a variety of tight or weakened muscles. This absolutely affects athletic performance and makes athletes more susceptible to injuries. Learning about both upper and lower cross syndromes can bring awareness to your posture and movement patterns. Many people spend too much of their day sitting or doing other repetitive actions and this can lead to upper and lower cross syndromes. If you never have had your posture or movement evaluated, we can help with that. We use a digital program to analyze posture pictures and have patients go through a functional movement screening to see how well their bodies move. In the meantime, try implementing some of these posture tips for both standing and sitting to combat negative stresses on the body.
7 Tips for Good Standing Posture
The American Posture Institute recommends 7 tips for good standing posture:
- Keep your shoulders back and relaxed
- Pull in your abdomen
- Keep your feet about hip distance apart
- Balance your weight evenly over both feet
- Let your arms and hands hang naturally at your sides
- Try not to tilt your head forward, backwards or sideways
- Make sure your knees are relaxed, not locked
7 Tips for Good Sitting Posture
They recommend these seven tips for good sitting posture:
- Pick the right height chair, where your feet rest flat on the floor with your knees level with your hips.
- Have a footstool or yoga block available to prop up your feet if it’s more comfortable, or if your seat is too tall.
- Sit back in your chair.
- If you need more support, put a rolled-up towel or pillow behind your low back.
- Stretch the top of your head toward the sky and tuck your chin slightly.
- Keep your neck and upper back comfortably straight.
- Keep your shoulders relaxed, not hunched, rounded or pulled too far backward or forward.
Improve Athletic Performance
In addition to being cognizant of and working to improve posture, nutrition is another area where you can make changes to improve athletic performance. Many athletes don’t have proper education about nutrition and how it impacts their performance or durability. They don’t understand how to properly fuel the body. Ultimately, as an athlete, you need energy. Energy is defined as the capacity to do work, and to perform better, you need it. Some of the foods that we hear that athletes eat amazes us. Chips and muffins and other junk isn’t going to give your body what it needs to achieve high-level results. Garbage in, garbage out! You wouldn’t put regular gasoline in a racecar and expect it to run at its optimal level. So why don’t people take the time to feed their bodies what they need to run effectively?
Quick tips would be to add quality fats and proteins to your diet to provide your body with fuel to perform and recover. An example could be a collagen-based protein or some other clean-sourced protein to add to smoothies. You can create snacks with chia seeds and nuts such as almonds, cashews, or walnuts as a good source of healthy fats. Another good source of healthy fats is coconut or some other MCT (medium-chain triglyceride) oil. Finally, drinking coconut water is like a natural Gatorade. It is loaded with electrolytes, and it doesn’t have all the added sugars and artificial flavors and coloring. An entire 16-ounce bottle of Gatorade contains a little more than 13 teaspoons of sugar! Give your body what it needs to run smoothly and effectively. It doesn’t make sense to feed your body junk foods that will just create sludge and slow you down. If you need help with nutrition, schedule a nutritional consult and allow Kristen to help you choose better options for you or your athlete.
At Wellness Solution Centers, we love working with athletes. Our doctors and many of our team members were or are still athletes, and there are many services that we can provide in our office to improve athletic performance and reduce potential injuries. The most obvious one is chiropractic care. We have 53 moveable joints in the spine, and when the spine is aligned well, the joints move correctly. Chiropractic adjustments help ensure that the body functions as efficiently as possible, which can maximize healing and recovery from all types of injuries. Chiropractic’s focus on the nervous system and postural biomechanics allows the body to function properly and to heal itself. The healing process always occurs from within the body, but research has shown that chiropractic has an amazing potential to assist the body in the recovery process. Because doctors of chiropractic are experts in the field of human biomechanics, they are very aware of proper posture and movement. By observing an athlete in action, a chiropractor can often detect and prevent a structural problem that can lead to injury or poor performance. Athletic injuries are often caused by improper biomechanics or muscle imbalances within the spine.
Massage Therapy for the Athlete
As a multi-disciplinary office, we also offer massage therapy. Making sure the spine is aligned is vital, but soft tissues including muscles and tendons move the bones. It is extremely important to make sure the soft tissues are healthy and mobile to improve performance and reduce the chance of injury. Our massage therapists can perform targeted massage to focus on the areas that need the work. Based on the functional movement screening and posture evaluation performed by the doctor, they will know exactly what areas are too tight, too rigid, or not working correctly. Instead of spending a little time on all areas of the body, they will be able to be specific on those problem regions to give your body what it needs to function better.
Another key service that will help athletes is our posture prep and functional training sessions with our trainers. This is much different than going to your local gym and doing a training session. Posture prep is specially designed to combat upper and lower cross syndromes and poor movement patterns. It consists of posture-specific rehabilitation and exercise with the goal to reduce muscle imbalance and get the body moving better. So often, people with poor posture have limited mobility. Their joints are already stressed because they aren’t in proper alignment and then people further stress them while exercising. For example, if you have slumped shoulders and a forward head, your shoulder joint will not be able to bear the load of an overhead press. It won’t move correctly and adding more strain will just push the shoulder into further dysfunction. With posture prep, we want to correct abnormal posture and aberrant movement. We aim to regain proper postural balance and stability so that the spine will be able to withstand the load of exercise. Once your body is ready for exercise, our trainers can design a functional training program to push you in a safe way to improve strength, stability, and mobility so that you can take your athletic performance to the next level!
The final way that our office can help improve performance and help recovery is by providing quality supplements. Protein supplements are available that will provide better ingredients than something that you will find at a GNC. Multivitamins and fish oils are beneficial for athletes. Magnesium deficiency can lead to muscle weakness and fatigue. Many people are deficient in this mineral, so supplementing magnesium can help performance and reduce injury risk. Finally, if you are dealing with an injury with lots of inflammation and subsequent pain, an SPM supplement can help reduce and resolve the inflammation. Ask a doctor or team member for more information about a supplement that may help aid in performance on the field or recovery from an injury.
This fall as you or your child participates in the many athletic opportunities offered, be sure to follow the example of the professionals. Have your spines checked regularly, both before the competitions to enhance athletic performance and after sporting events to minimize the effects of trauma!