Few are the sports that test the limits of the human body as much as a triathlon. Consecutively running, cycling, and swimming for miles and miles in one day exert great strain on the body, challenging athletes on both physical and mental levels.
To prepare for such tough endurance events, athletes don’t only need to power through extraordinarily grueling workouts over the course of many months (a whole year, in the case of difficult triathlons such as Ironman and Olympic). Rest and healing are crucial in combating the effects of such extreme training, and chiropractic care is the preferred treatment of athletes looking to increase their endurance and performance on the field.
The Many Risks of Participating in a Triathlon
Any sport involves a certain amount of risk, but swimming for 2.4 miles, then biking for 112 miles, and ending with a full marathon run of 26.2 miles in the same day is certainly a feat of athleticism. Athletes participating in the Ironman competition expend anywhere from 8,000 to 10,000 calories or more during the race, and they often suffer a wide range of injuries and overuse stresses.
Overuse injuries occur as a result of repetitive use of particular muscles, and they happen for various reasons. Athletes sometimes push their limits too far or too fast without having good stability in the structures that are supposed to withstand the stress. Those who lack adequate hip extension may compensate by arching their spine and putting unnecessary pressure on their low back. Lack of stability to move quickly, failure to train the right muscle groups, using improper equipment, or lack or rest are among the most common mistakes triathletes make that result in pain and injury.
Some of the overuse injury woes of triathletes coincide with those of runners, but also include a significant number of acute injuries:
- Rotator cuff tendonitis – shoulder pain experienced by swimmers, caused by an imbalance between the more developed front of the shoulder and chest muscles and the rest of the shoulder muscles.
- Iliotibial (IT) band syndrome – seen in runners and cyclists, caused by the repetitive bending and straightening of the knee, leading to friction between the IT band and the femur.
- Patellar tendonitis – seen in cyclists, occurs when the quadriceps muscle in front of the thigh becomes inflamed and pulls the kneecap against the joint.
- Stress fractures in the hip, tibia, or foot, caused by a sudden increase in training volume without adequate adaptation and recovery.
How Can Chiropractic Treatment Counteract the Effects of Extreme Training
The reason chiropractic care makes sense to athletes training for endurance events is that it offers an evidence-based approach to eliminating pain and restoring full function of the body without the use of painkillers. There are multiple styles and techniques utilized by chiropractors to increase range of motion, optimize biomechanics, and reduce the risk of re-injury in order to improve the overall athletic performance.
Soft Tissue Treatments
Chiropractors are experienced in the manual manipulation of soft tissue, used to locate and break up areas restricted by scar tissue from overuse, injury, or poor movement patterns. Techniques such as Active Release Technique and Graston Technique, along with instrument-assisted soft-tissue mobilization techniques, focus on manipulating specific tissues that have been restricted back into their original tension and position.
Osteopathic Manipulative Treatments
One of the main forms of chiropractic treatment used in sports medicine, osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) is used to increase range of motion and promote pain-free movement. Athletes often rely on this method as a preventative measure against injuries.
In athletes recovering from injury, therapeutic and rehabilitation exercises may be used to restore strength in the spine, improve pain management, and optimize recovery. Depending on the type and severity of injury, custom exercise plans may be designed by the chiropractor to reduce the likelihood of re-injury.
Chiropractors experienced in sports medicine may use electrical stimulation, acupuncture with or without needles, massage, and ultrasound therapy to reduce swelling in the body’s tissues, increase blood flow, reduce stiffness and muscular spasms, and speed up recovery.
Many chiropractors can also provide advice on proper nutrition, which is essential to help the body repair, restore, and maintain the health of cells, tissues, and organs for optimal functioning and performance.
Despite the taxing workouts, triathletes can remain healthy and functioning at their best by undergoing regular chiropractic care. Working with a chiropractor experienced in sports medicine and nutrition can help you gain a competitive edge in your upcoming event and make sure you enjoy every minute of it.
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.