Heading into living a healthy lifestyle takes baby steps. Typically, you start by focusing on basic training and nutrition. Once those are in check, you go a little further and start looking at more advanced styles of training and supplementation (sports supplements, vitamins, etc). Then, before you know it, all of that is second nature. You regularly fuel your muscles appropriately through food and supplements and you utilize your training to help you further your goals. You become “experienced” in the fitness realm, but, just because you’re an experienced athlete doesn’t mean the baby steps stop. The learning continues, and the next logical step is to begin practicing proper recovery.
It’s no secret that people skimp on their recovery efforts (i.e. stretching...), but just because it is often overlooked doesn’t mean it’s less important than the other aspects of healthy living. In fact, I would argue it is just as critical, if not more, than training!
Recovery is becoming increasingly important to the high-performing athlete (be that sport athlete, bodybuilder, powerlifter, or just avid fitness enthusiast) to reduce fatigue and enhance performance. In the past 5-10 years, there has been a significant increase in research examining both the effects of recovery on performance and potential mechanisms, one of those being chiropractic care.
"Chiropractic just makes you feel so much better. When I walk out of the clinic, I feel like I'm about three inches taller and everything's in place. And as long as I see the chiropractor, I feel like I'm one step ahead of the game." -Tom Brady
Top athletes are no strangers to the benefits of having good spinal health. In fact, an estimated 90% of all world-class athletes routinely use chiropractic care to prevent injury and boost their performance! All NFL teams employ on-staff chiropractors, as do the majority of NBA, NHL, MLB teams, and PGA golfers. If it’s such a crucial part of keeping these elite athletes so elite, then why wouldn’t we “commoners” take advantage of it, too??
I asked myself this the other day and wondered if this recovery mechanism could be my secret weapon to performance as well. To shed some light on the subject, I reached out to Dr. Dan Turo, owner of Turo Family Chiropractic, a premier health care facility located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Dr. Turo is a well-known chiropractor with over 10 years of experience and is also the only Certified Pierce Results practitioner in Western PA.*
*Pierce Results System being a reputable system providing biomechanical analysis of spine kinematics (or spinal motion), utilizing “stress views” of the spine or videofluoroscopy (VF, or “moving x-ray” studies) to determine the loss of spinal function, which is at the core of the “vertebral subluxation complex”. (Pierce Results System, 2018)
Before we dove into the importance of spinal care, Dr. Turo started by breaking down the foundation of health:
“Our bodies are designed to be self-healing and self-regulating. We know this by observing the human experience for thousands of years. If you get a cut on your finger, the inflammation response is activated to form a clot, break down damaged tissues, and replace with new healthy cells. This is all done without you ever thinking about it, that is self-healing. Self-regulating is about ADAPTATION. If you go outside without a coat on a 20 degree windy day, your body has to start shivering and rerouting blood from the extremities to your internal vital organs, if it does not do this for temperature control in a very quick period of time, you would die from hypothermia. That is self-regulation.”
With all of that in mind, he went on to explain how “the healing and regulations of your body that happen every second of every day of your life are under tight monitoring and coordination by your nervous system”. Your nervous system is also responsible the mind/muscle connection- it is what sends signals to the muscles to make them stronger or weaker and it’s what signals the body keep working so you remain healthy. However, without the motion and correct alignment of your spine, the nervous system will not have the energy it needs to function at its best.
“So, to make a long story short, your spinal health is a necessity for your well-being,” Dr. Turo summarized.
Dr. Turo then went on to share that, while he treats many patients for a large array of conditions from headaches/migraines to dysregulated blood pressure and digestive disorders, he sees a lot of active patients with movement-based conditions. These clients come in for treatment of radial/joint pain and/or general recovery/performance enhancement. “Many people come because their body is in a state of dysfunction and they cannot start or continue an activity that they love to do.... Most athletes would love to know how to optimize their performance!”
And, optimizing performance is exactly what I wanted to know more about, too! I began questioning the "why" behind it all-- why does performance benefit from spinal adjustments??
Performance/Risk of Injury
“When I think of athletes and performance I think of competition. It doesn't matter if you are competing against another team, as and individual, or even against yourself and a previous PR. Your ability to out-perform your competition has everything to do with moving your body as efficiently as you can through a variety of ranges of healthy movement. The more effectively you can perform movement, the better chance you have of out-performing your competition.
A spinal adjustment is designed to optimize movement by promoting healthy mobility of your spine. There is a unique joint between each spinal segment known as the vertebral disc, which is the shock absorption of the spine and, really, the whole body. These discs stay healthy through movement of the spinal segments. If there is a segment is restricted in any direction, then the disc will start to weaken. Abnormal tissue changes in and around joints have been noted in as little as 24-48 hours if that joint is restricted in its motion. This is why stretching and, of course, adjustments are so powerful. The key is to maintain a healthy range of motion through the whole body, most importantly the spine.” (Dr. Turo on athletic performance & adjustments)
Dr. Turo at work adjusting a spine
Maintain proper movement in your spine in order to optimize and maintain proper movement of your body! This explains how a study in the Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association found a 6.12% increase in a group of athletes’ performance after just 1 chiropractic treatment! Another study done by Dr. Roger Sperry, a Noble Prize recipient for brain research, found a 30% increase in hand/eye coordination after 12 weeks of chiropractic care.
Keeping your body performing at peak level also means less likelihood of injury. It’s no wonder athletes are taking advantage of chiropractors!
But, what about recovery?
Chiropractic work is widely performed on athletes and has been shown to minimize healing time-- giving them a quicker and better recovery, and allowing them to continue performing at their best. To, again, better understand the “why” behind this all, I started by asking Dr. Turo the “how”. How does relieving irritation between misaligned vertebrae lead to improved and quickened recovery?
“A joint/muscle cannot fully heal/recover without its full range of motion. Adjustments to the spinal joints optimize ROM. Many chiropractors, and I am one of them, adjust other joints in the body as well for that same reason: to optimize motion. I have hundreds of cases of patients who come in with a sprained ankle, knee, elbow, or wrist (those are the most common) that did not respond to traditional physical therapy. Once the joint is adjusted and motion is improved, now the exercises and other treatment modalities completed by the PT are much more effective in restoring normal function to the joint. I have personally seen sprained ankles restored to normal function within a few days IF I can get them adjusted within a day of the injury occurring. This is also why it is important to get your spine checked regularly, because a restriction may occur long before any noticeable stiffness or discomfort shows up. The sooner it is taken care of, the easier it is to correct and keep it corrected!”
Ah-ha! Bring back range of motion, allow the body to heal itself-- makes perfect sense! Does this also then alleviate pain in the body? Yes and no.
While, in the majority of cases, adjusting the spine/joints can and will relieve pain, Dr. Turo pointed out that sometimes pain is part of the healing process. “If our goal is to restore optimal function, pain may be part of that healing because it is signaling the body where tissue damage may need to be repaired. I have had experiences where I have been adjusted and I will feel pulsing sensations at the site of an injury that happened months or years prior,” Dr Turo explained.
There is always a slight risk of pain before the body can begin healing and Dr. Turo helps his clients understand this from the beginning. Despite these instances, though, chiropractic work is very effective in reducing pain-- so much so that it is becoming the go-to over pain medicine for athletes.
While pain meds simply mask problems for the short-term, chiropractic care is the long-term solution to pain/injury as it helps open up certain pathways that the body needs in order to break down damaged tissue and build new healthy tissue.
Dr. Turo added, “Most of us athletes are in it for the long haul and medication will only mask problems which can lead to worse injury/recovery down the road. I personally have not taken a medication in over a decade. No, I am not a professional athlete, but I still put my body through some rigorous workouts and have had several serious injuries during that time frame. I don't say this to brag, but to show the possibility of performance without medication.” Not to mention, it helps you heal and recover without the potential effects of dulled reaction time (a big no-no for athletes!) and addiction.
The Bottom Line
“90% of the stimulation and nutrition to the brain is generated by movement of the spine. This would be analogous to a windmill generating electricity.” -Dr. Roger Sperry
Our nervous system controls so much within our body, especially muscle activation and recovery, and it gets its energy through the spine, so why wouldn’t we focus on taking proper care of it?
Chiropractic care manipulates the spine to keep it healthy, allowing for optimal function of the nervous system with all other parts of the body. It opens up range of motion to joints or discs that have been injured, allowing the body to step in and do what it does best: heal itself, and it corrects postural imbalances that can often lead to injury-- preventing problems before they occur!
With improved performance, reduced recovery time, and fewer injuries, it’s easy to see why chiropractors are being utilized by so many, from the “pros” to the “Joes”!
If chiropractic care is something you’re interested in to take your training and recovery to the next level, don’t wait any longer- hop on it and begin researching reputable chiropractors in your area ASAP!
As well, if you are in the Pittsburgh area, strongly consider calling Dr. Turo and staff at Turo Family Chiropractic. Even if you’re not in the Pittsburgh, Dr. Turo recommends reaching out to his office so he can help you find a chiropractor in your area that is congruent with your health goals!
Chiropractors are showing more and more athletes how to increase and improve their athletic performance by keeping their spine and nervous system free of interference.
Chiropractors and athletes, name a more iconic duo, I’ll wait...
(Tom Brady and the Patriots' team chiropractor, Dr. Mike Miller at Super Bowl XLV)