What is a Sports Chiropractor ?

By Atlanta Sports Chiropractor,

Niklaus DelFavero, DC, CCSP, CSCS, CGFI, CES

You may wonder, “ What is a sports chiropractor and why would I need one? ” These are two great questions to ask if you are starting a training program or suffering from a training injury.

The differences between a standard chiropractor and a sports chiropractor are significant. A standard chiropractor is a highly trained professional who typically deals with a variety of folks who are in pain and want relief. He will review a patient’s medical history, conduct an assessment, then locate and address the source of the discomfort. He may also provide education about the problem and create a treatment plan to optimize healing. Just as a good mechanic can troubleshoot an issue and help a car last longer, a good chiropractor can help his patients enjoy a more pain-free and healthy lifestyle.

In contrast, a sports chiropractor is a highly specialized provider who has pursued years of post-graduate training beyond his or her chiropractic degree. This additional education includes subjects specific to exercise, injury prevention, and rehab of existing injuries. Initials that follow a practitioner’s name, like CCSP, CSCS, CES, indicate advanced training and can help you spot a specialist. Sports chiropractors usually treat recreational or professional athletes who are pushing their bodies to the limit. A typical patient may say something like, “The first 10 miles I run are fine, but then I get this pain in my knee that slows me down. It’s killing my time!” As a result, the examination and treatment of these patients presents a different, and often more complex set of challenges.

An evaluation by a sports chiropractor includes many standard examination procedures but then differentiates into intense evaluation techniques. When the patient walks, does each part of the body move with equal ease and freedom of motion?  Do the legs extend as far back on both sides during a running stride? During a squat, do the knees remain solidly centered or does a weakness cause one side or the other to shift slightly?  Additional tests and observations reveal essential clues when mechanics aren’t optimal.

While a general chiropractor might ask you to point to where it hurts or bend over to determine which movements increase your pain, the sports chiropractor may have you run on a treadmill as he analyzes your shoulders, torso, hips, knees, and ankles, even if these areas seem pain-free. Minor discrepancies that are not immediately evident can become a problem as the body is pushed to higher levels of performance.

For athletes who run or bike hundreds of miles a month or swim for hours at a time, shoulders and knees depend upon the perfect balance and coordination of muscle groups that must contract and relax completely without restriction.  Sports chiropractors rely upon techniques like ART and Graston to improve muscle tone and balance. Athletes who perform repetitive motions can develop a form of scar tissue that restricts the muscles over time. This condition can be minimized by these soft tissue techniques, thus improving performance. Therapeutic exercises can help to improve the symmetry or balance out the strength of different sides of the body. Imagine having one weaker leg and trying to ride a bike for one hundred miles!

When pain is a symptom, serious detective work is often needed, since the location of the problem and the site of the pain may be completely different areas. This is where the best sports chiropractors shine in their ability to solve the puzzle and get to the real cause of the problem.

Dedicated athletes often provide an additional challenge. They are usually unwilling to take time off from their training schedules. As a result, the sports chiropractor must determine whether the patient’s training activities can be modified so that he or she will not lose ground as they heal.  This is especially important, because continuing to train in an unsafe manner may prolong the healing time or even cause harm.

But what if you could prevent injuries before they happen and boost performance right from the start? This is possible through the practice of pre-screening athletes as they prepare to increase their intensity of training.  This type of examination can indicate potential areas of weakness and decrease the likelihood of injury as activity levels escalate. Functional Movement Assessment is a helpful tool that can recognize and isolate issues before they become problems.

In conclusion, the sports chiropractors are more like members of the design team of an Indy 500 or NASCAR vehicle, striving to determine how the patient can go faster, further and for longer periods as safely as possible. They examine each component of the athlete’s performance in order to squeeze out a little more speed, strength, or endurance.  Being pain-free is no longer the main criteria in this area of chiropractic, for pain is a normal part of the training process. Optimal function in stressful situations is the new standard; this is the higher, more challenging goal of the sports chiropractor

Dr. Niklaus DelFavero is the owner of 1st Choice Sports Rehab Center, a specialized team of 10 sports chiropractors and therapists who provide care to an equally unique cross-section of patients in Decatur and Johns Creek, Georgia just outside of Atlanta. To schedule an appointment call 404-377-0011

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