Chiropractic Treatment for Sports Injuries
Physical activity and sports are great avenues for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. On top of the physical benefits of sports related activities they can significantly improve the quality of life for individuals of all age groups. One of the unfortunate by-products of our passion for sports are the various injuries that can result.
The level of the competition is irrelevant; individuals who compete on the national stage get injured at about the same rate as the “weekend warrior” who enjoys playing football in the park with friends.
How Do Sports Related Injuries Happen?
This is a question that is often asked by the athlete themselves. Most people participating in competitive sports will tell you that they keep themselves in good physical condition, make sure they warm up and stretch before playing, and wear the right protective gear. So, then why do these injuries occur? The answer is often as simple as wear and tear on the body caused by repetitive motion. Playing at top speed before one is completely warmed up is another common cause of sports related strains and sprains.
Typically sports happen at a fast speed so the forces produced through the body will be magnified compared to normal life. This means that a body that could cope with the physical stress produced by the speed of normal everyday movement may suddenly break down under the extra physical stress which is the result of speed.
Is there a Role for Chiropractic Treatment for Sports Injuries?
In the not so distant past, Chiropractic treatment for sports injuries was almost unheard of. Today, many professional sports teams have a chiropractor on staff to attend to the myriad injuries and physical ailments that can potentially impact the performance of the highly priced athletes that are critical parts of the organization.
It is suggested that a balanced approach to treatment and prevention of sports related injuries through the use of chiropractic and other methods is often quicker, cheaper, and less dangerous than alternatives such as reconstructive surgery. This view is gradually winning acceptance. For example, a leading English professional rugby club, Leicester Tigers, provides Chiropractic care for its players whether they are injured or not.
The endorsement of Chiropractic methods by such famous athletes as Evander Holyfield, Tiger Woods, and Lance Armstrong has also created a groundswell of interest by athletes at all levels who are looking for any physical advantage they can find to become more competitive.
How Do We Treat Sports Related Injuries at the Hunter Clinic?
The treatment needed by an athlete will very much depend on how the athlete has been injured and the result of the physical examination. Additionally, if there has been recent trauma, then scans may need to be ordered. In treatment, we make the “rebuttable presumption” that the weakest link in the chain will tend to break down first. So, we will first consider the alignment of the athlete particularly in standing and walking to consider how he or she may be misaligned either statically or in movement.
Misalignment may contribute to producing compensation patterns were certain muscles work too hard and other muscles don’t work hard enough. The muscles which are overworking will sometimes become shortened, thickened and tightened. These muscles will need to be released by means of Soft-Tissue Release.
Chiropractor Andrew Hunter’s favourite method for this is Active Release Techniques which was developed by Chiropractor Michael Leahy. Next, the muscles which are felt to be “underworking” or not doing their job properly, will need to be reintregrated into the movement pattern by means of Corrective Exercise.
For a very injured athlete, for example with a badly “slipped” disc, Corrective Exercise will need to start with floor exercises where the spine is kept almost still and the muscles are contracted around a static spine – for example with the tummy muscles drawn Pilates style towards the spine.
However, these type of exercise can only be a starting point. Their carry over to the sports field is very limited. For the sports field, the athlete needs to learn how to move again in the most efficient and effective way. For this purpose Chiropractor Andrew Hunter favours the Anatomy in Motion approach (AiM).
AiM is based around analysing the patient’s gait and working to improve that. It is a Corrective Exercise system rather than being orthotics based – i.e. it does not rely on sticking an insert into the patient’s shoe. To keep things simple, the biggest thickest muscle in the human body is the gluteus maximus (the glutes).
So, in walking or running or lifting or jumping or throwing, most of the effort should come from the glutes. So, if the athlete produces most effort in the calf muscles then expect the calf (or Achilles) to break down. If the athlete produces most effort from the thigh (quadriceps – i.e. is “quad dominant”) then expect the knee to be likely to break down. Similarly, if most effort is produced at the shoulder, then it is the shoulder which is likely to break down.
If the athlete overused the low back muscles, relative to the “glutes” then the lower back will tend to break down. To counter this, Chiropractor Andrew Hunter uses the “concentric” and “eccentric” exercises of the AiM to train the athlete to use their “glutes” maximally which will help to “unload” the injured areas of the body.
In conclusion, at the Hunter Clinic, we think that using Chiropractic to improve skeletal alignment in conjunction with Soft-Tissue Release in combination with Corrective Exercise (especially for recativating the glutes) gives the athlete the best chance for recovery and for staying healthy. We are based in London, located in Canary Wharf, The City (near Moorgate) and in Blackheath.
Please note, you do NOT have to be injured to come an see us! If you are thinking of taking up a new exercise programme, or sport or increasing your level of participation, it is a good idea to come in and have your alignment, muscle tightness, muscle activation and gait pattern checked out before you begin your new exercise programme or sport.
Athletes of all ages and ability ranges, whether female or male, are welcome to call the Hunter Clinic. Call 07855 916 602 for assessment and manual Chiropractic treatment, Soft-Tissue Release and Corrective Exercise.