Is Chiropractic Care Truly Essential for Athletes?

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Chiropractic care serves everyone, young and old, living active lifestyles or not. It aids in the improvement and maintenance of overall health as well as addressing aches, pains, and even injury without the need for painkillers; however, as an athlete, or someone who leads an active lifestyle, chiropractic care is essential. 

Sport chiropractic care

Sports Chiropractors and General Chiropractors: Is there a difference? 

Sports chiropractors and general chiropractors are designations that cannot be interchanged. However, they are not the same. Where every sports chiropractor could perform general chiropractic care, not every general chiropractor can serve as a sports chiropractor. “There is a difference. There’s extra training, extra qualifications that you need to obtain to become a sports chiropractor,” explains Dr. Kyle Smerglia of Smerglia Chiropractic. For the sports chiropractic certifications, you’re going to expand your knowledge on soft tissue care, like myofascial release techniques and more extremity adjustments. In contrast, general chiropractic focuses more on spine and musculoskeletal care and treatment, like your ankles, knees, and hips.

“If you think about sports, you’re using your legs, arms, shoulders, and such all the time. So, the care has to focus on both the bones of the extremities and the soft tissue,” continues Dr. Smerglia. “A sports chiropractor is charged with not only loosening muscles and calming down the fascia but also getting an athlete to rehab more quickly. So, how do you get the athlete feeling better more quickly and get them back on the sports field as soon as possible?”

Are the adjustments and treatments different for athletes?

Because the goal of chiropractic treatment for an athlete is slightly different from that of a non-athlete, is it fair to assume the adjustments and treatment methods are different, too? According to Dr. Smerglia, yes and no. “Adjustments are similar.  If someone’s foot is hurt there’s only a couple of different ways that you can adjust the foot. The difference is that a general chiropractor typically doesn’t have the same therapeutic tools as a sports chiropractor might to execute muscle rehabilitation and get those athletes back on the field quicker. For example, I am not a sports chiropractor so I don’t have cool compression cryotherapy leg sleeves that I can put an athlete in to get the lactic acid buildup out.”

How can athletes and active individuals benefit from chiropractic treatments?

Chiropractic care is essential for athletes because it helps prevent injury and allows for faster recovery after an injury occurs. In addition to helping athletes recover from injuries, chiropractic care also improves athletic performance. How? “Obviously, if you’re an athlete you want to be performing at your best. Optimal performance is what you need, especially if you’re trying to make it as a professional. Making sure that your body is functioning optimally (that the bones are moving as they should, the muscle tissues are where they should be, you don’t have a lot of pain, irritation, or inflammation going on) tends to ensure that you’re performing optimally on the field,” explains Dr. Smerglia. 

If you’re going to try and perform at 110% but your right hip has a chronic, constant issue, you’re not going to be able to perform as you should be. Sports chiropractic care keeps athletes active and moving. It’s all about the body functioning as optimally as possible so they can get out there and leave it all on the field.

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Much like any other chiropractic adjustment, how are active adults and athletes adjusted differently than active children or student-athletes?

There are different factors to consider when determining treatment for various age groups and levels of activity. “Runners are a great example. Generally, runners will want those cryotherapy leg sleeves that really help with all the lactic acid buildup. But say you’ve got a track athlete and she is 12 years old, she likely won’t need that. Instead, she might just need a chiropractic adjustment to get her hips realigned and make sure that the knees and ankles are functioning properly. That might be all that she needs to be functioning at a hundred percent. Alternatively, if you’re a 60-year-old running a marathon you’re going to need a lot more recovery afterward. You’re going to need a lot more soft tissue work to get you back on your feet,” explains Dr. Smerglia.

That said, the adjustments aren’t all that different. “We’re not talking infants and newborns. Those age groups always need to be adjusted differently,” continues Dr. Smerglia. By the time a child has reached the age where they can actively participate in athletics,  at that time the adjustments are going to be similar. “With some pediatric patients, we adjust a little bit differently using more or less force depending on the patient’s unique situation.  Still, it’s the same outcome (getting that bone back into place) Whether it’s a young athlete or an older athlete.”

When should an athlete see a chiropractor rather than a physical therapist? How could an athlete know which is needed?

Your chiropractor should be able to help you determine if you need sports chiropractic care or physical therapy. Many times athletes go to the chiropractor while in pretty good shape. They’re not seeking treatment because they’re falling apart and need to be put back together to get back on the field. Instead, it’s that they’ve heard from a friend or read an article that says, “Hey, go see your chiropractor and you can perform optimally.” “I do feel like chiropractic is more of the, ‘Hey, let me get in. Let me get out. I want to make sure I’m performing optimally in between games.’ Whereas a lot of physical therapy is performed after an injury. You get an injury on the field, and you’re faced with surgery or physical therapy (or both).”

Athletes often end up in the physical therapy offices for sports-related rehab. PT can shorten recovery time and restore the types of movement (like the range of motion) that an athlete depends on. “Say you’re a soccer player. As you’re nearing the completion of your rehab program, you’re going to be dribbling the ball around the facility. You’re going to be taking shots. You’re going to be running, doing cut moves, things like that, to make sure that you’re physically ready to do those activities on the field again,” describes Dr. Smerglia. In that way, physical therapy for athletes can be thought out as a long-term treatment plan, whereas many athletes treat sports chiropractic as maintenance to ensure peak performance.Are you feeling aches and pains? Each person’s body and history are different. Our chiropractic staff is on-hand to use their years of experience to provide 1-on-1 personalized care. We work with you to develop a treatment plan that fits your needs. Active lifestyle or not, call Smerglia Chiropractic today!

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