Chiropractic Medicine and Sport

Chiropractic (sometimes referenced as chiropractic medicine) is one of the alternatives to conventional Western medicine that is now so well established in certain types of injury treatment as to be itself mainstream; chiropractors are now the third largest group of healthcare practitioners in the Unites States. It is the essence of chiropractic that when the vertebrae are misaligned, the spinal cord, responsible for carrying all nerve impulses to the limbs from the brain, will not itself perform in an optimal fashion.

Alternative medicine is defined as virtually any form of physical care or treatment of human ailments that is carried out by healthcare professionals who are not trained as medical doctors in Western medical schools. The treatments falling outside of the conventional Western medical techniques are sometimes the last resort of persons who cannot find relief, particularly those with chronic conditions. Well-known alternative medicines, if not practices entirely accepted by physicians and surgeons, include naturopathy (the use of natural remedies such as botanical medicines and a focus on the whole body), acupuncture (especially in the relief of muscle injuries and pain management), massage therapy, and chiropractic.

Chiropractic, a term derived from the Greek expression for "performed by hand" was first developed as a system of medical treatment by Daniel David Palmer (1845–1913), who determined that the proper alignment of the spine, through its interrelationship with the central nervous system, influenced a number of the body's skeletal and muscular systems. The chiropractic view of injury treatment has never been entirely welcomed by medical governing bodies such as the American Medical Association; there is a grudging acceptance today on the part of most physicians that chiropractic has a role in the management of certain types of musculoskeletal injuries.

Conventional chiropractic treatments center upon the alignment of the spine and other joints; the manipulation of the parts of the skeleton in question are performed by hand by the chiropractor, with the objective that the better skeletal alignment will occur in a pain-free fashion. Chiropractic treatments also often are combined with various other processes such as electronic muscle stimulation, ultrasound (the generation of sound waves that are directed at an injured tissue or structure to produce heat, with the aim of speeding the healing process), and massage therapy. Chiropractic treatment does not utilize pain-killing medications or anti-inflammatory drugs.

Given the stresses that many sports place upon the human structure, chiropractic has found favor with a significant constituency within the athletic community, both as a treatment resource and as a preventative technique. Within the discipline itself, there has emerged a specialist, the sport chiropractor, with specialized knowledge of musculoskeletal problems experienced by athletes, coupled with a

Diver jumps from a 26-m high cliff in Brontallo, Switzerland during the 1998 Cliff Diving World Championships.
focus on nutrition and other natural health concepts. In the United States, this aspect of chiropractic practice is governed by the American Chiropractic Board of Sports Physicians; similar bodies exist in many other nations where sport and chiropractic have intersected.

The most common chiropractic manipulation, referred to as an adjustment, is that of the vertebrae. Injuries that are commonly treated, either exclusively through chiropractic manipulation or in conjunction with other massage or a therapeutic exercise regime, include sprained joints, muscle strains or pulls, tendonitis (particularly occurring in the elbow or Achilles tendon), bursitis, and generalized joint injuries.

Many athletes have derived a benefit from chiropractic adjustments as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. Chiropractors will operate in conjunction with any other treatment professionals, including a team physician and physical therapists. A significant benefit of chiropractic is that as the treatments are drug free, the athlete has no pharmaceutical masking of the condition; consequently, the biofeedback to the athlete, passed along to medical personnel, is not distorted by any analgesic.

Further, a drug-free treatment regime has the additional benefit of insuring that the athlete will not be prescribed any substance that might be determined to be a prohibited substance, with negative consequences for both the athlete and a team.

Chiropractic has also achieved notice as a preventative system, akin to regularly scheduled maintenance for the body. Many athletes believe that they have derived a significant benefit through both tuning their alignment to its best position prior to competition and aiding the body's recuperation subsequent to an event. Sports that have seen a particular involvement of the sport chiropractor include gymnastics, with its high potential for overuse-type injuries and significant forces applied to the spine, and distance running, in which both recreational runners and elite competitors seek peek biomechanical function.

Chiropractic is an option for both the prevention and the treatment of injury, with an understanding that it is a discipline with a finite limit. Chiropractic manipulations may, for example, assist with the resolution of a lumbar strain, or various types of joint pain; chiropractic will not solve structural damage such as a fractured vertebrae or a ruptured Achilles tendon.

SEE ALSO Acupuncture and Eastern healing therapies; Back anatomy and physiology; Massage therapy; Nervous system; Skeletal muscle.