Chiropractic Care Improves Athletic Performance
By Scott T Sheriff, DC, Dec 18 2018 07:00AM
As a chiropractor, I appreciate the benefits of regular chiropractic care and I get adjusted regularly. As an athlete, I've always felt that my body performs better after I've been adjusted - strength, mobility and endurance seem to come with less effort. I thought that maybe I was just biased... but it turns out that there really is a connection between chiropractic care and improved athletic performance.
Chiropractic care affects athletic performance both directly and indirectly by supporting and improving the function of your nervous system.
The nervous system is the way that your brain communicates with the rest of your body – information travels from the brain to tell your body what to do, when to move, how to move, how fast and with how much power. The brain also controls the function of every organ and system – heart, lungs, kidneys, digestion, etc. Your body – every joint, muscle and organ also sends information back to the brain. This is how your brain monitors exactly what is going on. It monitors the position – the exact coordinates – of every moving part and it does so without you even thinking about it. Imagine how complex this process is when you are in motion, lifting a heavy weight, or throwing/catching a ball while running. Athletics demands precision.
When your spine is out of alignment – when parts of it are twisted, jammed, stuck or even just a little stiff – a pocket of inflammation develops. Think about how the tread on a tire wears unevenly when the front end of your car needs an alignment. This type of “wear” in your spine creates a small area of swelling and irritation near a spinal nerve. When a nerve becomes irritated, it does not transmit information efficiently. Signals traveling from the brain to your muscles will be altered or slowed down. The brain sends the message that your arm needs to rise up to catch that ball, but it’s a fraction of a second delayed and the ball flies over your head. In many sports that fraction of a second means the difference between first place and crying yourself to sleep.
Equally important is the information that travels from your joints and muscles back to your brain. This information is important for proprioception. It tells your brain the exact position of the joint and muscle it’s attempting to control. Proprioception is vital information. If your brain doesn’t know where something is coming from, it will never get where it needs to go. A few millimeters off can mean the difference between the winning point and a missed goal. It's the difference between setting a new PR or coming up just short. These are examples of how chiropractic care directly influences athletic performance. It directly improves the efficiency of the nerves that control joints and muscles and provide feedback to the brain. Optimum performance can only be achieved when the spine is healthy and in perfect alignment. Many athletes already know this - almost every NFL and Major League Baseball team employs multiple chiropractors.
Chiropractic care also indirectly supports athletic performance. The same spinal nerves that control joints and muscles also maintain the function of the organs of your body – the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver and digestive system. Superior health of these organs is vital for optimum athletic performance. When spinal nerves become irritated, the organs they control will not function at their highest potential. Your heart rate may be a little off and your lungs may not function quite as efficiently. In turn, this affects athletic performance – your blood will not circulate as rapidly and will not be fully oxygenated. Your muscles will notice the difference. Small deficits can make huge differences in performance – especially for endurance athletes. Furthermore, recovery from exercise and preparation for the next training session requires high functioning kidneys and liver. Exercise creates toxins and waste products. The faster these can be neutralized and eliminated, the sooner you’ll be ready to perform again. Have you ever awakened in the morning feeling sluggish and not known why?
Lastly in our discussion of indirect methods that chiropractic medicine improves athletic performance is the digestive system. Efficient absorption of protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals is essential for building a strong, healthy body. The finest foods and supplement plans mean nothing if your body cannot absorb them. If the digestive system is lacking, you won’t repair damage efficiently or build new muscle, you won’t replace the energy you used up, and you won’t be ready for next training session or event.
At the end of it all, we are talking about small differences – studies show that performance typically improves 15-20 percent with regular chiropractic care. In competition, that small amount makes all the difference in the world. In my personal training, it means the difference between feeling tight and sluggish or feeling my absolute best – and I will always choose the latter. I love working with athletes and this is one of my favorite topics – it's why I do what I do.