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Duncan Chiropractic Group Newsletter

Wellness Care For The Athlete

Dr. Pamela Stone - August Issue

How many of you have patients in your office who are athletic and say they are competing better than they did before they started receiving chiropractic care? These subjective patient testimonials/anecdotal reports abound…“I don’t get injured or sick as often, I am more flexible, I have better range of motion, I can see the ball better, my hand-eye coordination has improved” are comments that we have all probably heard one time or another.

Whether or not you are a sports-specific chiropractor, you probably have a patient or two or more who participates in sports on a regular basis. Whether it is tennis, running, golf, weight lifting, skiing, pilates or triathlons, their athletic performance probably has improved somehow because of the chiropractic adjustments they have received. And the term “athlete” is used loosely here and does not focus solely on those individuals who work out 5-7 days a week. The term “athlete” is for those individuals who participate in a sport on a regular basis, whether or not they are in it for serious competition or weekend fun.

Most athletes have come to recognize chiropractic care as an excellent injury prevention and treatment option. But beyond that, they need to realize that chiropractic provides many additional benefits that can boost performance naturally and can make a difference in their results. As chiropractors, we can provide this type of “wellness care” to our patients and help to maximize their potential.

But what is wellness? In his new book The Wellness Revolution, world-renowned economist Paul Zane Pilzner calls wellness the “next trillion dollar industry.” He predicts that by the year 2010, an additional $1 trillion of the U.S. economy will be devoted to products and services that keep us healthy, make us look or feel better, and prevent diseases from developing altogether.
Stedman’s Medical Dictionary, 26th edition, doesn’t even include a definition of wellness in the book. The 2nd edition Oxford Dictionary, however, describes wellness as a “healthful condition through proper diet, exercise, and preventive medicine.” Pilzner describes the wellness business as being “proactive. People voluntarily become customers—to feel healthier, to reduce the effects of aging, and to avoid becoming customers of the sickness business. Everyone wants to be a customer of this earlier-stage approach to health.” Though you may not personally agree with the terms preventive medicine, wouldn’t you agree that those two definitions fit in with the chiropractic paradigm?

The chiropractic profession has always been focused on the optimization of health and the prevention of dis-ease. However, our challenge has been getting the word out there to the masses, and it now we are seeing a shift in our society to proactive wellness care. Pilzner predicts that the wellness industry, unknown to many 10 years ago, is on the verge of changing our lives as much as did the automobile industry in 1908 and the personal computer industry did in 1981.

So how does this relate to our patients that are athletes? Don’t many of them have a health and wellness conscious attitude to begin with? It doesn’t matter what level of participation they are at, or whether they come to us “asymptomatic” or “healthy” or “normal,” they still can benefit from chiropractic care in order to optimize their health and maximize their performance. And those who don’t come to us, we need to get the word out to them that chiropractic care can help maximize their performance.
The exciting thing with promoting wellness and peak performance is that it varies person by person. You do not need world-class athletes to make a difference. For example, if you have two triathletes, one working just 20 hours a week and training for races the rest of the time, and another one working 50 hours a week with much less time devoted to training, their race results will surely be different. A team of tennis players will consist of those with natural talent versus those who with not-so natural talent, as well as those with years of playing experience versus those newcomers. In both of these situations, and others similar to them, you can’t compare results or performance person to person. However—and this point has to be emphasized to the individual patient—you can compare the person to themselves and you can compare what their experience has been like before starting chiropractic care and during/after starting care. Emphasize to them that chiropractic care can maximize their individual performance on whatever ability they have and training time they have available.

Subjectively, patients can tell us their results and how they are feeling and performing during competition and training, and we can boast about their success in patient testimonials and during health talks. We tell a person who is not in pain or already feeling great that removal of vertebral subluxations will allow their body to function at a higher level, and that their health and performance can be maximized, but can we back that up with objective findings?
Peak Performance in Asymptomatic Patients

The correction of the vertebral subluxation can provide health benefits for athletes that go beyond that of back and neck pain. Several studies have been published that illustrate that health benefits are gained and performance improves regardless of the presence or absence of symptoms. A considerable amount of evidence supports that people without symptoms, such as athletes, can benefit from chiropractic care.

Perhaps one of the more publicized research papers ever published said that athletes under regular chiropractic care performed better than athletes not under chiropractic care. Two groups of athletes were used in the study, both male and female, and none of who had ever been under chiropractic care. The authors measured athletic performance in several categories; agility, balance, kinesthetic perception, power and reaction time. One group was given chiropractic spinal adjustments for a 12-week period of time, and the other group was not. After six weeks, the athletes were again tested and the group under regular chiropractic care performed 10.7 percent better than the group that wasn’t under chiropractic care. After 12 weeks, the athletes receiving chiropractic care demonstrated a 16.7 percent average increase in athletic performance as compared to the control group.

Zhang, M.D., Ph.D., et al studied athletic performance and physiological measures in baseball players by measuring vertical jump, broad jump, muscle strength, blood pressure, pulse rate, microcirculation and treadmill stress testing. Athletes were randomly placed into two groups, one control group and one that received chiropractic adjustments. Athletes were tested prior to starting chiropractic care, and at five and 14 weeks into care. Results showed that “In each instance of improvement the adjusted group demonstrated substantially greater percentage increases relative to baseline than did the control group.”

In a forth coming article for the Journal of Vertebral Subluxation Research, Sean M. Hannon, D.C. reviews several studies suggesting that correcting vertebral subluxations with chiropractic adjustments can improve overall health and physical function regardless if the patient is symptomatic or not. Perhaps one of the more significant studies on athletic performance measured pulmonary function in athletes receiving chiropractic spinal adjustments.
“Kessinger measured changes in pulmonary function associated with upper cervical chiropractic adjustments on 55 subjects. Twenty-two of the 55 were ‘typical’ subjects, that is, they presented within ‘normal’ range of Forced Vital Capacity (FVC) values. Following two weeks of chiropractic care, 73 percent of these ‘typical,’ normal range subjects further improved FVC values by 6 percent. Thirty of 55 were ‘typical’ subjects, that is, they demonstrated a normal range of Forced Expiratory Volume per 1 second (FEV-1). Following two weeks of chiropractic care approximately 47 percent of these ‘typical,’ normal range subjects further improved FEV-1 values by 6 percent. Overall results of the study indicated that pulmonary function improves significantly in subjects under upper cervical chiropractic care.”
The effect of increased lung volume for athletes is significant, particularly with endurance athletes. Marathon runners, triathletes, cyclists and other athletes who are out there exercising for several hours at a time should be able to breathe, stronger and deeper for longer periods of time. In another study reviewed by Hannon, 16 female distance runners presenting with sacroiliac subluxation were assessed by Grimston et al.

“Subjects underwent 12 sessions of chiropractic adjustment (in conjunction with muscular rehabilitation) over a 4-week period. Compared to four control subjects, a statistically significant decrease in lumbo-pelvic asymmetry was observed. Following care, all 12 subjects with sacroiliac subluxation had reinstated their preinjury training mileage. Five of 12 subjects (40 percent) reported their personal best performance over the 10-kilometer distance run. Two subjects achieved personal best times over the marathon distance (42-kilometers). All (100 percent) subjects reported enhanced awareness of posture and flexibility in addition to reduced symptoms.”

If you or your patients are an athlete, wouldn’t you want to see performance improve by 16.7 percent? How would that affect running, lifting, a golf swing, or tennis serve? Can we assume that fact that since these individuals are under chiropractic care also means their lung capacity is improved as well, as noted by Kessinger?

A considerable amount of evidence supports that people without symptoms, such as athletes, can benefit from chiropractic care. We know that the correction of the vertebral subluxation complex enables the body to function and perform at a higher level, and there are studies to illustrate that. Athletes need to realize that and know that it can increase their performance, decrease the chance of injury, and decrease the occurrence of illness.
Can extremity adjusting affect performance?

Certainly! Many athletes go through down periods, whether it is a result of an injury, illness, or simply a slump. Sometimes, a decrease in performance can be the result of foot imbalances. As chiropractors, we have to make sure we address all joints, including the extremities.
Since the feet are the body’s foundation, they absorb forces from the rest of the body and when involved in running or jumping, forces can increase three to seven times as much. Optimal foot balance and function can help athletes perform at their best. Often times, foot imbalances are not always painful, though these imbalances may be noticed at the knees, pelvis or spine in some sort of musculoskeletal system compensation.

As chiropractors, we need to look at foot positioning, including foot flare (internal or external), uneven shoe wear, bowing of the Achilles tendon, and dropped or low arches. The positioning of the feet should be checked in the weight bearing position, walking, and non-weight bearing. Imbalances in the feet can result in decreased performance.

John Danchik, D.C., notes that “In comparable individuals, 25-degree foot flare can add up to an energy expenditure of .20 miles per mile run, or an extra 88 yards per mile in efficiency.” That means wasted energy, slower times, and decreased performance.

Competing athletes or even the weekend warrior who wants to be at their very best need to consider regular chiropractic care for the competitive edge. We know and we need our patients to know that exercise, stretching, and massage alone cannot restore loss of motion or nervous system interference. Chiropractic care benefits every function of the body and can have the potential for long-term, overall health benefits and improved performance to those receiving care.