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I’ve written a lot in the past about how an ideal structure can help increase athletic performance. If you want those articles, check them out here below:
With that being said, most people aren’t coming to see me for a competitive edge. They’re coming to see me because pain or some other factor has become an obstacle in their life. What happens when the 2 worlds collide where an injury to the spine may prevent someone from training for the sport of their choice?
Dina is a competitive weight lifter. In the past 2 years she has competed in the National University and the American Open weight lifting competitions. She’s all but 100 lbs soaking wet, but she can probably put more weight overhead than the average guy.
She was recently in a rough auto-accident that gave her a bad case of whiplash, but it also caused pain in her lower back. MRI’s revealed something that many athletes fear: Herniated discs in the neck and back. Then came the questions:
- Can I still squat?
- Will my performance suffer?
- Am I always going to have pain?
- Will I need surgery?
- Will my doctor tell me to stop training?
In my world, a herniated disc, even a large one is not the end of the world for most people or most athletes. There are just way too many people that get better and function pretty close to normal with most disc herniations, and there is a lot of evidence to support that. [1,2]
Her chief symptoms after the accident were headaches, neck pain, and back pain. A local orthopedic surgeon diagnosed her with a soft tissue injury and would be safe to take care of conservatively and sent her my way.
I took her case and gave some initial pre-cautions about lifting until her main symptoms started to get better.
From Pain to PR
Being young and fit is typically a great predictor for fast healing. There’s something special about the combination of youth, muscle, and robust arterial circulation.
After 2 sessions of Atlas Corrections, Dina’s headaches got a lot better. In addition to her head, her hip and pelvis became more level and her back was getting much better. All within a couple of weeks. I gave Dina the okay to start training again but not to go too aggressive with heavy weights quite yet…..
But not all patients listen to their doctors, and many will go based on their own intuition. Dina was feeling good enough to go after a personal record, and she was kind enough to let us see it here below.
Here’s her Back Squat PR
and her Hang Clean PR
Increased Muscle Performance Through Better Structure?
A recent study published in the journal Experimental Brain Research provided a viable mechanism to show that getting a specific chiropractic adjustment has the capacity to decrease fatigue during maximal muscle contraction.
Another study in the journal Chiropractic and Manual Therapies provided some small evidence that kicking speed can be increased with spinal adjustments to the lower back region of the spine.
A 2012 study in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiologic Therapeutics showed that spinal manipulation to the neck increased grip strength in Judo athletes compared to a sham manipulation.
While the evidence is pretty light for the time being, the results seen in chiropractic offices and the growing demand for chiropractic research on athletic performance suggest there might be something to it.
Injuries like herniated discs don’t have to be a performance and athletic death sentence. While it’s important to realize that every case is different and some disc problems can be potentially serious, what really matters is how much functionality you have and NOT what your MRI says.
If you have weakness, problems going to the bathroom, or loss of sensation, then obviously that can be a serious problem. However, the large majority of disc problems might be a small correction away from being a non-issue.
It’s also a good reminder that chiropractic can enhance someone’s life beyond pain, and into the world of performance.