Approximately 1 out of every 5 Americans (20 percent) participate in some type of sport, exercise or recreational activity according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Additionally, the average amount of time per day engaged in these and other leisure activities is typically around 5.25 hours.
The benefits of choosing this kind of active lifestyle are many. For instance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that exercise can help you control your weight more easily, strengthen bones and muscles, and can even help improve your mood.
Being active also reduces your risk of major health conditions, some of which include cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and certain types of cancers.
But an active body sometimes requires more specialized care to better prevent and help treat injuries related to the athletic person’s activities of choice. This is where sports chiropractic and sports therapy massage can help.
The value of chiropractic and sports therapy massage for athletes
Palmer College of Chiropractic reports that sports chiropractic can help athletic individuals improve performance, increasing the effectiveness of their training at the same time. Chiropractic care can also reduce injury risk and, should an injury occur, speed up recovery times. Research indicates that chiropractic can play a critical role in treating a variety of common sport issues, such as concussions, sprains and sports-related low-back pain.
Massage therapy offers benefits to athletes as well. According to research published in the North American Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, sports massage can be used to “help prepare an athlete for competition, as a tool to enhance athletic performance, as a treatment approach to help the athlete recover after exercise or competition, and as a manual therapy intervention for sports-related musculoskeletal injuries.”
So, what happens when you put them both together?
The chiropractic viewpoint
“I personally really enjoy the combination of sports chiropractic and massage therapy when working with athletes,” says Michael Braccio, DC, DACRB. One of only eight chiropractors in the state of Washington with a diplomate in rehabilitation, Braccio says that, from the sports chiropractic perspective, using both modalities allows “more time to be spent on improving biomechanics and performance, whether that is focusing on improving functional movement patterns or strength training.”
Chiropractic and massage combined also provide athletes benefits by being engaged in “a longer session focused on decreasing muscle soreness and normalizing the length-tension relationship in muscles with the massage therapist,” Braccio says. The National Kidney Foundation explains that this soreness is typically a result of doing a new exercise or exercise program, increasing intensity, or from overuse.
Making sports chiropractic and sports therapy massage work together
“The key to combining these treatments effectively is great communication between the massage therapist and the chiropractor,” Braccio says. “If both know the treatment program and desired outcome, massage therapy and sports chiropractic complement each other nicely.”
It’s also important that the patient work with a licensed massage therapist (LMT) who is familiar with the sport the athletic patient is engaged with most, says Gary DeFilippo, LMT, owner of Laying On Of Hands Rehabilitative Massage in Brighton, New York, as there is no “one-size-fits-all” therapy for all sports.
“A great example is the hurdle race,” DeFilippo says. “The hurdler’s leg muscles are trained to lift the contracted leg to a specific height to scale the hurdle. If the muscles that contract and medial rotate the thigh are stretched during the warm-up, the contracted leg may drop just enough to cause the runner to hit the hurdle each time.” An LMT who is familiar with this sport and knows this will know how best to work with that individual athlete.
DeFilippo also adds that, mechanically, the massage therapy session should proceed the chiropractic treatment. “Bones do not move without muscle,” he says, so “if a muscle is overly tight and a bone is pulled out of place, the muscle needs to be warmed and pliable, then stretched. If not, the chiro can ‘pop’ a bone into place, but the tight muscle can ‘pop’ the bone out of place unless it’s addressed first.”
Individually, chiropractic and massage offer many benefits to athletic individuals. Together, they can provide even more advantages, especially when the two health professionals work as a team.