Emptying his pockets of coins and keys, my Dad mentioned he’d just been to the chiropractor for his back and my brain immediately thought “that’s why I’m never going, you just keep going and going and going.”
I didn’t really get it. I was 18, what the heck did I know.
I had no idea what running 1600+ miles per year would do to my hips over the coming decade or that there’s so much more to a good chiropractor than giving your back a crack.
In fact, because we have moved 8 times in the last 10 years I’ve learned how to find a good sports chiropractor near me that can help with things from runner’s knee to IT Band through a hip adjustment and muscle manipulation.
So let’s talk more about what to look for in a running chiropractor and why you might want one on your team!
What is a Sports Chiropractor?
Just like I tell runners to find a sports medicine doctor when dealing with an injury, I recommend finding a chiropractor who lists themselves a Sports Chiropractor.
This means they have done additional schoolwork that makes them experts in injury prevention and rehabilitation. It’s not just something to use when you’re injured, but a tool to nip things in the bud so they don’t turn in to injuries.
One of the differences you’ll often find is that they do more muscle manipulation, they ask more about movement patterns and will assign corrective exercises.
What Does a Sports Chiropractor do?
When our muscles are imbalanced or our spine/hips are misaligned, we naturally change our running gait to compensate. The obvious result is that other muscles try to pick up the slack and our changed form uses joints and muscles in the wrong way.
We often then try to treat the specific area of pain, but without taking in to account our total body we’re often off the mark.
I.e. I could stretch my IT Band all day long, but if my right hip remains an inch higher than my left my body won’t ever recover.
As stated by Meb in a Runner’s World article:
“I’ve been going since 1993 when I was in high school. Now I try and get adjusted at least once every two weeks.
What I like about chiro is that they look at the whole body, not just the injury. I might have pain in my hip but the problem might be in my shoulder.”
While you are there the chiropractor will likely go through an initial evaluation to see if any specific movements are causing pain.
They will then often have you stand or sit to look at posture. It’s amazing how quickly they can see that one shoulder is lower or one hip higher.
After that it can get a little spicy when they start to dig in to muscles that are tight. The reason we want to release these muscles is so that after the adjustment they don’t simply pull you back off. Additionally those tight muscles might be the root of the problem, so they can often assign exercises to help prevent them.
Finally, you’ll get an adjustment specific to the areas needed. This is not painful.
Benefits of Chiropractic Care for Athletes
One of the first questions I ask my runners with runner’s knee pain or a hip niggle is “have you been to a chiropractor lately?” followed closely by, “have you found a good one?”
One that gets athletes and works on your muscles as well as your alignment?
That’s the kind of athletic chiropractor we’re looking for.
As with any service there’s a WIDE variety and you need to find the right person to reap the benefits.
- Improves strength performance by allowing all muscles to work properly
- A non-invasive, drug free pain relief tool
- Your spine is the house for the nervous system, which controls all kinds of things throughout your body.
- Good alignment means your knees, hips and ankles are moving correctly for less pain.
- Being out of alignment means muscles are being overworked or getting tight (example is IT Band Pain).
- You’ll become more aware of posture and tight areas, so you know what to work on your own.
- Creates relaxation through the deep tissue work and release of tense muscles
- Relieve headaches
- Improves breathing (often when I start to struggle with breathing on my runs I’ll find it feels better after an adjustment!)
- Can improve digestion
- Can improve sleep
Did you know that many big sports teams have a Chiropractor on staff full time? They know how important alignment is to good movement and injury prevention.
Chiropractor for Runner’s Knee
Yes, they can help with running knee pain! Of course they aren’t the only solution, but one of the main causes of runner’s knee is poor alignment.
Can’t say it better than a trained chiro:
“Chiropractic simply helps with keeping the body moving efficiently, to ease the mechanical loads and stress on the body, whether it is a marathon you are training for or simply everyday repeated movements.
A trained and experienced chiropractor can also help determine the likelihood of a future injury by identifying muscle imbalances or joint restrictions.”
If you’re wondering if your hips might be out of alignment, check this hip alignment post for at home tips.
Chiropractor for IT Band
One of the reasons I learned to appreciate a sports chirorpractor was the hip adjustments that would stop my IT Band pain in its tracks.
As someone who now does core, hip and glute strength daily, along with a warm up routine there’s no reason to have IT Band pain. One of the things I’ve learned over two decades of running is it’s a sign that my body is out of alignment.
Nearly every time I go in when feeling ITB pain my hips are slightly rotated or one leg is longer than the other. So though I’m doing all the things I can to keep my body stable and aligned, the constant pounding of running simply causes things to shift.
Can you go running after a chiropractic adjustment? Should you get an a chiropractic adjustment before a marathon?
It’s actually great to get moving because it re-enforces the correct movement patterns from being in proper alignment. You want your body to learn how that feels, which helps you get better and recognizing when things are off. Keep it to a light run, nothing crazy.
I often run after an adjustment and almost always feel even better on my run the following day.
I don’t usually get adjusted the day before a race, but I like to do it a week or so out just to ensure all systems are a go!
Now if you are having issues with lower back pain while running, it could be alignment issues…but those are often caused by tight muscles. So use all the tools to compliment each other.
Why I Now Go To the Chiropractor?
After my teenage thoughts on the chiropractor passed, I was initially encouraged to go while dealing with IT Band Syndrome. To my UTTER amazement I found immense relief after going and in the years since then, if I start to notice a twinge I go and it usually takes care of things.
It turns out that misalignment of the spine can cause unnecessary tension on one particular body part, which in my case meant that realigning my pelvis released that tension!
I believe we all need to take care of our bodies.
We work them hard, so massage, chiropractic care, restorative yoga, mobility work, foam rolling…these aren’t should do’s, they’re “I want my body to keep working hard, so I’m going to appreciate it.”
I’m always open to trying new recovery options.
Lifestyle issues cause alignment issues.
Do you run the same route all the time? I did and didn’t realize that always running the same direction on the same slope was changing my gait. Do you sit all day at work? Do you have poor posture? All of this gets you out of alignment.
Original image credit to Foot Levelers.
Arguments Against Chiropractic Care
Recently, SciBabe did a whole crazy article on chiropractors being quacks and when it gets in to some of the pills that some offer, I’m not going to massively disagree (though I’ve seen benefits from Chinese medicine).
But it was a completely inaccurate and unfair article because she didn’t going in to the hundreds of years of science around spinal manipulation or how it effects our entire body.
Let’s bust a few of the myths I’ve heard or that stopped be from going:
Not really, it’s usually a release of tension. Sometimes there will be muscle work which can get intense like a sports massage.
And occasionally when we have a lot of muscle adhesions which are keeping us from maintaining alignment or might be the cause of our muscle pain, they will do the Graston technique…and ok this isn’t super pleasant. I have found that I will NOT let them do this on my IT band, but it is helpful on my calves.
Again, an instance of showing you that the chiropractor is about more than cracking your back.Image from leading edge physio
They force you to comeback.
Silliness, no one can force you to make appointments. Most will recommend a treatment plan because they know consistent care adds up, but if you find the right person they’ll simply have you come when needed.
It is important to know that if you don’t fix your muscle weaknesses or tightness it will consistently pull your body back out of alignment. YOU have to do the runner pre-hab.
Once you start you can’t stop.
Of course you can! This isn’t like the once you shave your hair grows back darker. You aren’t changing anything in your body that makes you suddenly NEED it.
However, if you’re like me the way you feel or the reduction of injuries makes you want to keep going.
I’m not on a set schedule, but go instead when I start to notice things in my body. It’s amazing how running makes you get in touch with yourself! Right now, I would say I go in 3-4 times per year when I’ve been putting in marathon mileage.
All right, I hope this helped to give you more information about athletic chiropractic treatment and convinces you it’s worth a try.
This really comes down to where you go and insurance.
Every insurance is different, but most cover a number of visits each year and you can find someone who accepts your insurance, which means just doing a standard co-pay.
Under my current plan it costs me $75 which I pay for via our HSA. Previous coverage made it $40 per visit.
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