Perhaps you couldn’t help but notice more and more workout spaces popping up in your neighborhood with the name CrossFit displayed on the front of the building. With more than 10,000 affiliate gyms currently operating, CrossFit is everywhere these days, from your local park to your Facebook feed, garnering tremendous attention in the media world.
From coast to coast, CrossFit is generating an incredible amount of buzz among doctors, fitness experts, professional athletes, personal trainers, and more. Some think of it as the ultimate high-intensity power-training workout, while others consider it nothing more than just a fad. Whatever the truth is, one thing’s for sure: Crossfit is insanely popular and has developed a cult following. A recent article by Fast Company that looked at the number of Google searches for 11 popular workout programs over the past decade found that CrossFit is currently the most popular program of all, recently establishing a new peak search volume.
In the simplest terms, CrossFit is defined as a strength and conditioning program that combines a wide variety of exercises to ensure total body fitness, being designed to focus on working across each of the ten key fitness domains, including cardio endurance, stamina, strength, agility, speed, balance, coordination, flexibility, power, and accuracy. Rather than being a targeted, activity-specific fitness program, CrossFit’s goal is to improve overall health and fitness capacity, making people faster, stronger, and more physically capable of doing a variety of fitness tasks.
Because Crossfit features actual strenuous workouts with real exercises, there’s no question about the fact that it gets people in shape. Of all the trendy workouts, from P90X to spinning and yoga, CrossFit is the one that fulfills get-in-shape dreams fastest. Being “scalable at all levels,” the program caters to both newbies and former competitive athletes looking to regain their peak fitness level. For those who are truly committed, the program promises to turn them into the ideal version of themselves.
But as with anything extreme, the program has also generated a lot of controversy.
The Argument Against CrossFit
The main reason Crossfit has recently received a bad rap is due to its perceived propensity to cause serious injury.
The issue of the program’s safety first came into question in 2005, when the 38-year-old former army ranger Brian Anderson ended up in the ER following his first CrossFit class. He was diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, a rare condition in which the muscle fiber is broken down and released into the bloodstream, poisoning the kidneys and occasionally resulting in permanent damage. Anderson’s case was one of the six reported incidents of Crossfit-induced rhabdomyolysis.
Since then, further evidence showed that extreme conditioning programs such as Crossfit pose a significant musculoskeletal risk, especially among newbies, who often abandon sensible pacing and push themselves too much, too fast. According to a 2013 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 97 of the 132 athletes surveyed by researchers “sustained an injury that prevented them from working, training, or competing.” Of these injuries, nine required surgical intervention.
Further analyzing the data, researchers found that the injury rate of CrossFit amounted to 3.1 per 1,000 hours, which is similar to Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, and gymnastics. They also found that shoulder injuries accounted for 25 percent of reported injuries, which exceeds the injury rate of Olympic weightlifting, where participants lift hundreds of pounds over their heads.
Critics believe CrossFit poses serious dangers to most participants. The most serious accusations brought against it include the lack of concern for form, the absence of a rigorous certification program for instructors, and the lack of sound exercise science to back its claims.
Steering Clear of CrossFit Injuries with the Help of Chiropractic Care
There’s no doubt that CrossFit can be a tremendously efficient training program, helping participants achieve insanely chiseled muscles and outstanding aerobic capacity.
Unfortunately, along with the positive results, there is also significant wear and tear on the musculoskeletal system, largely resulting from overuse and extreme muscle stress.
The most common sports injuries we see at our practice include tendonitis, muscle strain, sore joints, spinal misalignments, and flat-foot injuries. Athletes participating in this training system have a tendency to injure their lower back, shoulders, knees, wrists, and elbows. In those with a pre-existing condition, such as tendon damage, a slipped disc, or an ACL tear, the risk of injury increases significantly.
Through gentle chiropractic adjustments and specialized massage techniques, an experienced chiropractor can help normalize your body’s flexibility, restore joints to their appropriate anatomic position, and release the pressure to the surrounding ligaments causing the pain. But more than relieving your pain and treating your injuries, chiropractic provides preventative care to enable your body to protect itself from injury when it’s working at peak performance. Look at it this way: if exercise is taking care of your body, chiropractic is taking care of the whole system that keeps you moving.
My advice is to approach CrossFit as any other sport, with cycles of increased workloads and regular periods of rest, as well as with an offseason. Instead of pushing yourself until you collapse on the floor, you should always be practicing good technique, work around your weaknesses, and stay within your limits. As long as there’s rigorous supervision and you’re not taking things to an extreme, you CAN achieve your fitness goals through CrossFit without getting hurt.
About the Author
Dr. Marc Browner is the Founder of iChiropractic and Wellness in Naples, Florida. A graduate of the University of Florida in 1991, he earned his Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Life Chiropractic in 1995. In private practice since 1998, Dr. Browner is a member of the Florida Chiropractic Society, the Florida Chiropractic Association, and he attends continuing education seminars, classes, and workshops to remain abreast of the most current treatment methods and technological advances in the field.