Whether you're trying to beat a personal best or qualify for an athletic scholarship, it's important to keep your body in top condition. Regular training is essential, but it also helps to work with a team of medical professionals to make sure your musculoskeletal system is in great shape. Keep reading to learn how regular chiropractic care can help you improve your sports performance.
Why Do Athletes Go to Chiropractors?
Athletes go to chiropractors to keep their bodies in excellent shape, prevent sports injuries and get relief from the pain and stiffness associated with muscle overuse. Chiropractors are also capable of addressing symptoms that affect sports performance, such as dizziness, reduced range of motion, nausea and tingling in the arms or legs.
1. Improve Balance, Agility and Coordination
Chiropractic care has been shown to improve balance, agility and coordination in athletes, making it a critical component of your athletic training plan. According to an article published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, chiropractic care is helpful for strengthening the musculoskeletal system, which makes it easier to maintain normal balance.
Chiropractic care also helps your nervous system function normally. The nervous system is responsible for movement, so chiropractic treatments may make it easier to coordinate the movements of your body whenever you need to accomplish a sports-related task. For example, chiropractic care combined with other sports medicine services can help you maintain the coordination necessary to score a soccer goal or pitch a fastball.
Another study confirmed that chiropractic care may even increase agility in athletes, which refers to the ability to move quickly. Agility is especially important in sports that require players to rely on each other, such as football, hockey and soccer. Tennis players also rely on their agility to move around the court fast enough to score — or prevent their opponents from doing so.
2. Reduce Stiffness and Increase Range of Motion
Stiffness reduces your flexibility, increasing the risk of injury and affecting your sports performance. In some athletes, stiffness occurs due to the overuse of muscles. You may also deal with muscle stiffness if you stop training for a few months and then try to return to your sport without easing your body back into a high level of physical activity. Stiffness can even occur due to a change in your training routine. Chiropractic care prevents the muscles from tensing up, reducing stiffness and increasing your range of motion.
3. Improve Muscular Function & Strength Training
Strong muscles are essential for success in any sport. You need muscle strength to take a hard tackle in football, hit a home run in baseball, kick a goal in soccer and cross the finish line first in a cross-country race, for example. In a study published in Frontiers in Neurology, researchers determined that chiropractic care may strengthen the lower leg muscles by making the muscle fibers more excitable. Although the researchers focused on the use of chiropractic care in stroke patients, the results can be applied to the field of sports medicine.
4. Improve Reaction Time
In sports, quick reaction times are just as important as other athletic skills. Reacting quickly makes it easier to score more points, assist your teammates and prevent the other team from scoring. If you're sore and tired, however, your reaction times tend to be slower.
In the early 1990s, Lauro and Mauch examined the effects of chiropractic care on athletes. After six weeks, the athletes who received chiropractic care performed 6.12% better than the control group — athletes who didn't receive chiropractic care — on the Index of Average Athletic Ability Improvement (IAAAI). The IAAAI measures performance on tests related to reaction times, agility, power and balance, among other criteria.
DeVocht et al. had similar results when they tested the effects of chiropractic care on a group of 120 military personnel involved in special operations. The troops who received chiropractic care were able to complete a complex motor task in less time than the troops who had no chiropractic care.
5. Prevent Sports Injuries
It's difficult to achieve peak sports performance if you're injured and can't move around as well as you usually do. Another benefit of chiropractic care is that it can help you keep your body in excellent condition, reducing the risk of sports injuries that lead to pain, stiffness and swelling. Chiropractic adjustments directly contribute to better spinal alignment and improved joint mobility, leading to improved athletic performance. If you see a chiropractor, you may also benefit from reduced inflammation and improved circulation, making it easier to avoid injuries during practice sessions and competitions.
In a study published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, researchers demonstrated that spinal manipulation therapy, one of the most common types of chiropractic care, reduces the amount of cytokines in the blood immediately following treatment. Cytokines are involved in the body's inflammatory response, so lower levels of cytokines are typically associated with lower levels of inflammation. Chronic inflammation reduces the amount of time athletes can spend training or participating in their sports, so lowering inflammation is a key benefit of chiropractic care for improved sports performance.
6. Reduce Recovery Time From Sports Injuries
Even if you receive regular chiropractic care and workout with a professional athletic trainer, there's always a risk of sustaining a sports-related injury. The risk is especially high if you play a high-contact sport, such as football or rugby, as you can't control the actions of other players. The good news is that chiropractic care can also reduce the amount of time it takes to recover from such an injury, as spinal manipulation, physical therapy, sports massages and other treatments ease pain and reduce inflammation.
Every muscle in the body is encased in a thin connective tissue known as the fascia. In injured athletes, fascia tension has been associated with longer recovery times following serious sports injuries. Chiropractic care reduces fascia tension and breaks up scar tissue, reducing the amount of time it takes to recover from certain injuries. It also increases flexibility and strength, giving you a strong foundation for injury recovery and subsequent sports performance. That's why chiropractic care is used by many athletes as a sports injury treatment.
Chiropractors have extensive experience helping athletes recover from the following types of sports injuries:
- Shin splints
- Strains and sprains
- Stress fractures
- Meniscus tears
- Rotator cuff injuries
7. Drug-Free Pain Management
No matter how careful you are, you're bound to feel a little sore after a long practice session or a tough game. Pain makes it difficult to stick to your regular practice schedule and keep your body in excellent condition as an athlete. Unfortunately, some prescription and over-the-counter pain relievers have unpleasant side effects. For example, acetaminophen increases the risk for liver damage when taken in large quantities.
Working with a sports chiropractor relieves pain even if you don't take medications, making it easier to recover from sports injuries and get over the soreness associated with muscle overuse. Chiropractic care has been shown to relieve the pain caused by serious injuries, making it a good alternative to pain relievers that may cause dizziness, drowsiness, constipation and other side effects.
Frequently Asked Questions
Sports chiropractors use their knowledge and skills to help people improve athletic performance, prevent sports-related injuries and recover from sports-related injuries. Using spinal manipulation and other techniques, a sports chiropractor typically aims to improve each athlete's balance, agility, flexibility and muscle tone, all of which can lead to better sports performance.
Absolutely. Some schools and professional sports organizations have a chiropractor on hand to help their athletes stay in top condition or recover faster from soreness, stiffness and other symptoms that can impair athletic performance. For example, every team in the National Football League has a chiropractor on staff. These chiropractors typically help players with lower back pain and neck problems. Even if an athletic organization doesn't have a chiropractor on staff, team members may be referred to a chiropractor by the athletic trainer or the team's sports medicine physician.
Improve Your Athletic Performance with Northeast Spine and Sports Medicine
Northeast Spine and Sports Medicine has a team of physicians, physical therapists and chiropractors available to address muscle pain, stiffness and other signs of overuse. If you sustain a sports-related injury, we can also help you recover faster. For a full list of conditions we treat, or to schedule an appointment for chiropractic care, call (732) 653-1000.