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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

5 Things to Look for in a “SPORTS CHIROPRACTOR”

By: Corey Campbell

Being a Sports Chiropractor is a big deal now. I am blessed enough to teach to students and doctors all over the world and I often hear “I want to work with athletes and be a sports chiropractor”.  I think that is a great goal and to work with athletes you do need a bigger tool-box. This got me thinking…what makes a “sports chiropractor”?

I have colleagues and friends that work with professional teams and some that are true team DC’s for pro teams so I look to them for that answer.  I have also been a DC for 14 years and I have worked with athletes of all ages and levels as well as being fortunate enough to have been a part of a large multi-disciplinary facility that was largely orthopedic spine surgery based.

However, as a person who is seeking (I won’t use patient as that implies illness and not all are ill or hurt) a qualified and skilled sports chiropractor (from here on SDC for Sport Doctor of Chiropractic) I think it is helpful to armed with some knowledge and questions to help you make an informed decision for your potential provider. Remember whether you are looking to get out of pain, recover from an injury and get back on the field, or perform better, you need to be your own advocate. Also, realize that any healthcare provider should be open to you asking questions prior to being seen.  The root and origin of “Doctor” means teacher.  So as a healthcare provider we need to keep that in mind and being open and honest is one facet but that other facet of what we do is to teach or inform you of what you have going on, what we can do to help you, and what your options are.

Below I have listed out 5 things you should look for in a SDC. I have gathered this information from my colleagues, my own personal clinical experience, and common questions people under care ask often. 5 things you should look for or ask about are:

1.     Soft tissue release skills/Certifications:  Most SDC’s will have certifications or training in soft tissue/muscle release techniques. There are many different muscle release certifications and proficiencies to look for or ask about but the most common are ART (active release technique), Graston, FAKTR, and PIR/PNF.  All of these are various ways to loosen muscle and help you move better. The skill part will be evident as experienced or well-trained SDC’s have great touch.  It’s the “Goldilocks test”. The soft tissue release is often not too much and not too little but somewhere in the middle. Depending on what the goal of the soft tissue release is (which needs to be based on an exam and palpation of the muscle) this may vary. Another important aspect of muscle release is picking the right tool for the job.  If you have trigger points (painful “knots” in your muscle that refer pain elsewhere) then Graston and ART really won’t be as beneficial as a PIR or dry needle technique and vice versa if you have muscle adhesions. Always know the goal of the treatment and don’t be afraid to ask.

   
    2.     Functional Assessment Skills. All good SDC’s utilize functional screening tools as part of their assessment.  Again there are a number of classes that can be taken to learn these or some have come up with their own functional assessments.  Regardless all good SDC’s assess movement. You will likely be run through a thorough examination that will include a functional section that assesses basic movements such as walking, running, squatting, balance testing, active and eccentric motion testing, core and joint stability testing and sport specific movements (i.e. golf swing or overhead lifting).

3.     Functional Rehabilitation/DNS Skills.  All good SDC’s incorporate rehabilitation/active care into their care plans. This is not to say that your doctor will teach you how to swing a golf club better or run faster.  That is not their job and it isn’t something most would have expertise in. They are there to help you function better. They are not coaches. This is not to say that some may have knowledge in certain things but they typically will help you function better and collaborate with your trainers or coaches. For example, my friend and colleague that works with a professional baseball team is extremely well versed in all things pitching (softball and baseball) and would be one of the best pitching coaches in the world if he wanted to be. However what he will do is inform the coaches and trainer of potentially harmful mechanics and work with them to help correct it so the athlete can stay healthy and hopefully reach a higher level of performance. All good SDC’s understand the importance of laying the foundation of respiration retraining, lumbar spine stabilization/bracing, scapular stabilization, hip stabilization, and more functional retraining based on the sport (i.e. chops or rotational movement for golf and squat retraining for CrossFit etc).


    4.  Taping/Dry Needle/ Cupping/ Laser/Cryotherapy/Nutrition. Most SDC’s have some other ancillary services or specialties they provide. These ancillary services typically help with inflammation or acute pain.  As an athlete (“If you have a body, you’re an athlete”-Bowman) you will encounter acute pain and injury and your doctor will have to do something to get the inflammatory process calmed down before he or she can even start to think about doing anything else. The above list of services will help decrease inflammation and hopefully decrease pain even if for short periods of time. I do want to mention the nutritional aspect as that is very important for athletes. You should ask your SDC about supportive and anti-inflammatory dietary changes and supplements as these are extremely important in not only acute/ injury control but also as a staple.  “Deflaming” is a popular term most DC’s are aware of and I feel strongly all people can benefit greatly from these concepts and lifestyle changes.

    5.  Joint Palpation and Adjusting Skills. Being an instructor for the Motion Palpation Institute (MPI) has given me perspective on the importance of hand skills. As DC’s the very essence our profession is our ability to assess, diagnose and treat (heal) with our hands. I know I am biased in this regard but I feel it is very important that any DC you choose has extensive training in palpation and adjusting skills. This goes beyond where the DC went to school. Just because a school has a certain reputation doesn’t mean everyone that graduates that school is granted some innate ability to be experts with their hands.  This is no different than all Yale attorney’s being the best in business. Any SDC you choose should have extensive training outside of their school training in palpation and adjusting skills as this is crucial to you functioning your best. The ability of your SDC to find and help change faulty joint biomechanics is crucial.  Often times muscle change are a result of bad joint motion. If this is coupled with repetitive movements (running, pullups, bootcamps etc.) then the problem will just continue to get worse. Once a joint loses its ability to move then no exercise or stretch can help restore that motion.  Again, you can ask questions about this prior to becoming a patient and you will know once that person works with you. Palpation and adjusting skill is something that you will know very quickly whether your SDC has or not.

I hope that this is helpful in your decision making when looking for a sports chiropractor. I do feel whether you are athletically inclined or just seeking to function and feel better it is in your best interest to seek out a good chiropractor. Chiropractors are natural minded and conservative care based. A good service driven DC will help guide you to a healthier lifestyle, higher level of functioning and be an advocate for you and your health.

Thank you.

Corey Campbell, DC

Motion Palpation Institute Board and VP
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