Professional sports teams, Olympians and competitive athletes are employing chiropractors because they demand results. Professional athletes often go to extreme measures to get the edge on their opponents. This can sometimes involve anything from dietary supplements, meditation to steroids.
This is where chiropractic can play a unique role in performance enhancement.
A properly aligned spine works with a greater mechanical advantage enabling more energy to be directed towards technique and power rather than being used up compensating for an ill-functioning spine. It can also help ameliorate joint range of movement and general flexibility. This undoubtedly helps an athlete to function at a higher level whether it be improving muscle strength, concentration, lung capacity or reflexes.
The research really supports the benefits of chiropractic in sports performance. A study conducted in 1997, showed that pulmonary function- as measured by FVC and FEV-1 improved following chiropractic care 1. The authors of this same study noted that ‘when postural efficiency is optimised, not only is breathing also optimised, but other functions of the human mind-body also improve’.
A similar study conducted in 2000, found that following spinal adjustment, VO2 max (maximum lung ventilation capacity), overall work (output) and peak heart rate all improved. The subjects in the study also reported less discomfort at their maximum effort (decreased perceived exertion)2.
After just six weeks of care, researchers Lauro and Mouch, found that subjects receiving chiropractic care showed an improvement of 18% compared to the control group who improved by just 1% using 11 different objective measures of athletic ability- including agility, balance, body awareness in space, power and reaction time. After 12 weeks of care, the chiropractic group improved by 30% on their scores3. It was also found that tissue oxygenation (increased tissue capillary count) or blood flow significantly improved with chiropractic care.
A high percentage of sporting injuries are not caused by a single incident, but by a build up of stresses caused by muscular imbalance or poor spinal alignment. It is imminently more sensible to try to stop an injury recurring rather than patching it up again and again.
However, Chiropractic goes much further than simple repair work for injured muscles and joints. Chiropractic helps restore normal motion and position to spinal joints as well as normalising nervous system function. Muscles, tendons and ligaments depend on proper joint movement and neurological input for peak performance. Injuries to these tissues can reduce range of motion, decrease blood supply
and literally take you out of the game. Normalising spinal function helps to speed the healing of these tissues a
nd reduces the de-conditioning effect of being on the sideline
Many athletes consider their regular session with a chiropractor an essential component of their warm-up regime and look upon it as a pre-cursor to the exertion and strain they are about to place on themselves. Whatever the sporting discipline, the body needs to remain supple in order to perform at
its optimum level and, given the stresses that many sports place upon the human structure, chiropractic has found high favour with a significant group within the athletic and sports community, both as a treatment resource and as a preventative technique. Chiropractic care provides improved range of motion and strength, quicker reflexes, enhanced endurance and overall better performance.
Kessinger, R. Changes in Pulmonary function Associated with Upper Cervical Specific Chiropractic Care, J. Vert Sublux. Res. Vol 1, 1997 pp43-47.
Miller J, et al. The Effect of Spinal Manipulation and Soft Tissue Massage on Human Endurance and Cardiac and Pulmonary Physiology-A Pilot Study. Sports Chiropractic and Rehabilitation, Vol 14, no.1, 2000.
Lauro A. & Mouch B. Chiropractic effects on athletic ability, J, Chiro Res and Clin Invest. 1991;6:84-87.