Chiropractic giving sport the winning edge

Chiropractic giving sport the winning edge

Chiropractic has long been associated with the conservative management of back pain. In other words, chiropractors are known to use manual therapy to rehabilitate injuries and problems with the spine. Athletes and sports people know better than most how important it is not only to keep their bodies flexible and responsive, but also they frequently need help in managing strains and sprains in the course of their training. Given chiropractors unique training in spinal biomechanics and therapy, as well as their holistic approach to healthcare, it comes as no surprise that there has been a massive increase in the involvement of chiropractors in professional and amateur sport, playing several key roles:


Rehabilitation and injury prevention

Athletes push their bodies to the limit with every training session and competition. While physiotherapy plays a vital role in rehabilitation, chiropractic can add value to an athlete’s recovery by investigating and correcting the effects of posture, exertion and strain on the function of the entire nervous system.

When we are injured, the body will engage a series of reflexes to guard the site of injury and adapt our entire physiology to prioritise healing. Often these reflexes may become amplified or stuck due to factors such as stress, old traumas or repetitive strain and can lead to delayed or incomplete recovery, often affecting one’s entire posture and areas far away from the site of injury. For example, an old ankle injury that healed incorrectly or partially can cause imbalance in the muscles of the shin and thighs, affecting their strength and performance, and this in turn can lead to injuries of the knee ligaments, hip cartilage and even discs in the back. Clues that this sort of problem is present include:


  • Delayed healing of apparently minor injuries beyond 6-8 weeks
  • Recurrent sprains of the same joints over and over – even in situations where there was little strenuous exertion
  • Aches and pain in areas that you don’t recall ever having injured
  • Getting a crick in the neck or back from sleeping or other trivial actions such as getting out of a car or putting socks on
  • Tightness in hamstrings or other important muscles that just won’t seem to stretch out – or muscles that get tight again quickly even after a very good stretch session
  • Plateaus in performance – no matter how hard you train or well you focus on nutrition


The reason for this is that the body will always prioritise self defence at the expense of normal function. Correcting abnormal joint function and improving the biomechanics of weight bearing and movement can have significant effects on recovery time, and recurrence of injuries later. Several studies have shown chiropractic care to reduce pain, improve injury recovery time, as well as prevent injury and re-injury in sports people.

For example, one Australian study found that AFL players who received regular chiropractic care had significantly fewer hamstring, knee and ankle injuries, as well as back pain than players who only received their usual medical and physiotherapy care. They also had less down time and reported feeling generally better than their peers. Many studies have been performed on the benefits of chiropractic care for injury prevention and recovery from injury:

  • One study found improved shoulder stability and reduced injury rates in hockey players receiving regular chiropractic care
  • Another that found that soccer players recovered more effectively from groin injuries with chiropractic care
  • Chiropractic treatment significantly improved tennis elbow injuries in tennis players
  • Baseball players under chiropractic care experienced fewer hamstring tears

Performance enhancement

It can seem natural to assume that a physical therapy like chiropractic can help rehabilitate and prevent injuries. After all, that’s what physio and massage does too. But one of the great secret weapons that chiropractic brings to an athlete is improved performance.


The weight bearing joints of the body, including the legs and spine have high concentrations of nerve receptors that communicate spatial awareness, body position and movement to the brain.


When a joint is out of proper alignment, injured or weak, the brain attempts to protect the body by contracting all those tissues and preventing normal, full-range movement. The information the brain receives from the body is distorted and less clear than it should be, so control, power, and movement becomes limited. The resultant guarding, adhesions, loss of circulation and freedom of movement leads to suboptimal performance. Chiropractors are uniquely trained to assess nerve, muscle and joint function from a holistic perspective. They look for weaknesses and imbalances that may not yet be bad enough to cause pain, then they correct them. This change of strength, balance and range of movement is often immediately observable in the clinic, such that many athletes seek chiropractic care directly before competition in order to give them an edge in accuracy, speed, power or reflex and agility. This is one reason why the involvement of chiropractors all codes of sport from Olympic team squads to football clubs, consulting on pro tennis and golf circuits and even bodybuilding, martial arts and the military.


Here too there is a growing body of research to draw on that shows how chiropractic can give you the edge on your competition:


  • Elite judo athletes showing a 16% increase of grip strength after just 3 sessions of chiropractic
  • Improved muscle strength, long jump distance in baseball players who underwent chiropractic care
  • A 30% Improvement in hand-eye coordination in athletes after a 12 week chiropractic regime
  • A study of 16 female long distance runners found that when they were under chiropractic care not only was the incidence of injury less, but 6 of them achieved personal best times
  • A study of 50 athletes found that those receiving chiropractic care scored significant improvement in athletic ability scores, and improved reflex reaction times more than 18% better than their initial measurements
  • Another study in New Zealand found over 18% decrease in reflex reaction time in elite athletes undergoing chiropractic care


The central idea here is that if the body is aligned and well balanced, then the brain can communicate more efficiently and with less distraction or irritation. This means that athletes of any age, or level of ability will find improved outcomes in training, performance and injury episodes. There is a long and ever growing list of professional athletes who attribute much of their success to their chiropractor. If you want to be a step ahead of the rest, make regular chiropractic care a part your own sport training regime.


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