Written By: Tim Leeming
What is chiropractic care?
The common public perception of chiropractic is that it is a manual healthcare modality focussed on the rehabilitation of back pain, neck pain and headaches. Contrary to popular belief, however, chiropractic was not founded or intended as a reactive and rehabilitative approach to health. The fundamentals of chiropractic are based upon a couple of scientific certainties:
- the human body is an intricate and intelligent system that has an inbuilt capacity to self-heal and self-regulate, and
- this is governed by a complex master control centre called the central nervous system.
Chiropractic is a proactive approach to health – pain is not a prerequisite: in fact, in many cases, there is more to gain for those who consult a chiropractor without any symptoms. International athletes such as Andy Murray, Usain Bolt and Valerie Adams regularly utilise chiropractic care. The managing director of sports medicine and chief medical officer for Team USA at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games was Chiropractor Dr William Moreau, who says: “Chiropractic plays an important role in preventive, maintenance or injury specific care, and contributes to enhanced clinical outcomes and high patient satisfaction levels among all athletes.” It is hard to find a better example than the USA Summer Olympic Team.
How does chiropractic work?
Some interesting research coming out of New Zealand has recently demonstrated an increase in neurological drive from the brain to the muscles of the leg during maximum voluntary contractions. After a single chiropractic adjustment, a 45% increase in neurological drive from brain to muscle resulted in a 16% improvement in the force produced. The authors of the study concluded that this amount of increase from just one adjustment is comparable to three weeks of strength training: imagine the benefit from adding regular chiropractic care to your current training schedule. The same study revealed that chiropractic adjustments also decreased fatigue and enhanced muscle recovery. Another study showed that chiropractic adjustments drastically increase activation of the core muscles – in particular, the ability to fire the core immediately prior to a given activity to provide stability.
As evidence for the neurological benefits of chiropractic for athletes continues to stack up, it also makes sense from a biomechanical point of view. The spine is the foundation of the anatomy. All limbs and appendages are anchored to the spine; the motion of the spine affects the limbs, and vice versa. If spinal biomechanics are optimal, it follows that the limbs attaching to the spine will move optimally as well. On the contrary, if the spine isn’t moving the way it should, the limbs probably won’t either. Anecdotally, it is remarkable to see the improved functionality of the lower limbs in athletes after spinal adjustments – niggles in the hips, knees and ankles quite often melt away. This has much to do with the extraordinary interconnectedness of the human body.
Additional benefits that are pertinent to runners include improved sleep and energy levels, improved focus and mental clarity, faster reaction times, sharper cognition and enhanced immune function.
Chiropractic is an extremely valuable tool for performance in any serious runner’s artillery. Taking care of your body between training sessions is your best chance to optimise the work you do in training (or better yet, racing). Nutrition, rest, mobility work, massage and regular chiropractic adjustments are all highly recommended.
Five benefits of chiropractic
- Increased neurological drive from brain to muscles leading to an improvement in force produced.
- Decreased fatigue and enhanced muscle recovery.
- Increased core muscle activation – core firing immediately prior to activity to provide stability.
- Optimise biomechanical function and efficiency.
- Improved sleep and energy levels, mental clarity, focus and immune function; faster reaction times, sharper cognition.
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 Niazi, I. K., Türker, K. S., Flavel, S., Kinget, M., Duehr, J., & Haavik, H. (2015). Changes in H-reflex and V-waves following spinal manipulation. Experimental brain research, 233(4), 1165-1173.
 Haavik, H., & Murphy, B. (2012). The role of spinal manipulation in addressing disordered sensorimotor integration and altered motor control. Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology, 22(5), 768-776.