Chiropractors have traditionally been known for treating patients suffering from acute or chronic pain related to the neck and back. Chiropractic treatment that involves spinal manipulation is regarded as a standard for treatment of cervical spine (neck) pain and acute lower back pain. Not only is it safe, but it has also shown tremendous health benefits for improving range of motion and reducing pain in patients during the rehabilitation process.
However, chiropractors are also capable of helping patients rehab and recover from injuries suffered in an accident or sports. The role chiropractors play in rehabilitation and sports medicine has grown substantially in the last 10 years. Almost all professional sports teams in North America utilize chiropractic services because of the recognition chiropractors has received in their ability to help athletes perform at their highest possible level. Apart from this, many rehabilitation clinics include chiropractic care as part of the services offered to patients.
Consider for a moment that the Managing Director for Sports Medicine for the United States Olympic Committee is Dr. Bill Moreau....a chiropractor!
Holding a position as a sports rehabilitation chiropractor is growing in popularity and, just like an athlete, a sports rehabilitation chiropractor must possess many tools or skills to be both effective and efficient in treating patients who are active and athletic.
Below is a list out 5 critical elements you should find when looking for a chiropractor who will be capable of treating you from a rehabilitation or sports injury perspective. Consider that these are not simply just my opinion, but rather this list has been compiled based on the insight of several of my colleagues and mentors, their clinical experience, as well as my own clinical experience.
- Palpation & Adjusting Skills. The heart of chiropractic is the ability to assess, diagnose and treat (heal) with our hands. Our hands truly are the greatest diagnostic tool available to us. I've had people say to me that what I do as a chiropractor is "easy" and that "anyone can adjust". There is some truth to that. Adjusting is easy. You can make a joint "pop" real easy. The challenging part is palpation and finding exactly what joint needs corrected, what motions are limited, and determine exactly how you will adjust the dysfunctional joint(s). Palpation is a skill and takes years to refine. You would be wise to find a sports rehabilitation chiropractor who is very skilled with their hands and capable of determining appropriate application of chiropractic adjustments.
- Functional Approach to Evaluation and Treatment. The use of functional evaluations is another critical skill of the sports rehabilitation chiropractor. The ability to assess movement and identify hidden causes to injury and pain become invaluable to helping patients find relief and optimize performance. If your chiropractor isn't taking time to assess your movement and helping identify how it may be playing a role in your pain or injury, you may be miss reasons why your pain is recurrent or why you just can't seem to get better.
- Functional Rehabilitation. A sports rehabilitation chiropractor should incorporate rehabilitation and active care into your treatment plan. Almost every case involving muscle or joint pain requires some level of strengthening exercise progression and education. The functional approach to rehabilitation includes identifying joint dysfunction, muscular imbalances, trigger points, and faulty movement patterns. These are often the hidden causes of injury. Observing how a patient moves and functions allows us to identify improper movement patterns that become contributors to pain and poor sport performance. By placing an emphasis on strategies to improve movement and function, functional rehabilitation is effective in improving qualities of endurance, strength, stability, balance, agility, coordination, and body awareness.
- Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization (DNS) and Vojta Therapy. DNS and Vojta Therapy are advanced approaches used to not only treat a variety of neuromuscular conditions but also used by athletes worldwide to elevate performance. By applying principles and techniques rooted in the study of child development, DNS and Vojta Therapy aim to improve and restore the activation ideal movement patterns. These techniques are used to promote the ideal postures, movements, and degree of body awareness that is essential not only to athleticism, but to also treating the underlying causes of several pain syndromes that are commonly treated by sports rehabilitation chiropractors.
- Myofascial Release & Manual Therapy Techniques. Myofascial release targets adhesions that develop either within a single muscle or between adjacent muscles and other forms of connective tissue such as fascia, tendons and ligaments. Sports rehabilitation chiropractors commonly use myofascial release & manual therapy techniques such as cross friction massage, active release, instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization, muscle activation, PIR, and PNF. Many athletes and patients experience accumulative or overuse trauma (ex: plantar fasciitis due to running or carpal tunnel syndrome due to prolonged computer/desk work). The goal becomes to work a muscle to remove adhesions and restore neuromuscular function to decrease pain while increasing range of motion, strength, and coordination of movement.
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