Athletes often get past their primary care doctor and are quickly moved to a specialist.
But…is seeing a specialist the best way to recover and perform better?
Whether you are an elite athlete or simply a weekend warrior, most of us have at some time have felt that seeing a “specialist” is the better or the best way to treat a sports injury or improve our performance and health.
You may be surprised to find out that by choosing the specialist route, you could be choosing the slow route to recovery.
Now don’t get fooled and think that I don’t like specialists. They have advanced training and knowledge in their specific area of expertise and are often great for traumatic and life threating conditions. But, while sometimes it may be necessary to see a specialist, MOST of the time I think that the specialist route is slower, more expensive and less effective.
Most conditions from low back pain to ankle sprains do not stem from a single problem in the body. Most conditions are multifactorial and achieving true health is definitely a multifactorial balancing act.
For example, I often find that people with low back pain also have digestive disturbances contributing to the pain. So while we may be able to provide a chiropractic adjust for the low back, fix the soft tissues supporting the low back and provide exercises to strengthen the low back, if the digestive system is contributing to the problem, the back pain will return or simply never go away.
In this simplified example, to fix the low back pain in a specialist model, you would need to go to a low back specialist (maybe a chiropractor or physical therapist) and then you would need to go to a gastroenterologist to assess your digestion.
You could have low back pain as an athlete or you may have shoulder or knee pain, but the model is the same. Each individualized specialist looks at their specialty and refers to someone else for anything outside of their scope.
If an up and coming athlete sees a chiropractor, they get a chiropractic adjustment, if they see a physical therapist, they get exercises, if they see a nutritionist, they get nutrition advice, if they see a surgeon they get assessed for surgery and if they see a podiatrist they get the focus is on their feet. The problem is that to truly be an elite athlete or simply a healthy individual, you need all of these services but you don’t have time to go to every office in town.
In a holistic approach to health, just because your shoulder hurts from “overuse”, it doesn’t mean you actually have a shoulder problem. You may have a problem stabilizing your core, you may have a problem activating your glutes on the stance and those muscular problems may stem from an unhealthy diet or hormonal imbalances. Maybe all the pitching biomechanics are right and you just have excessive inflammation from a pro-inflammatory diet.
The Whole Person
This is why, I believe that athletes and individuals should be assessed as an entire person considering diet, lifestyle, overall health and then their individual injury or condition.
Some of the additional things I like to check in my office include aerobic and anaerobic capacity, specific vitamins and nutrients, muscle recruitment patterns and compensations, hormonal imbalances, inflammatory markers, energy production, functional gait assessment and more depending on their sport.
By taking a holistic approach to athletes we are able to decrease visits needed, decrease expenses and maximize time that an athlete can stay healthy and in training. By keeping their whole body functioning and performing optimally, athletes and weekend warriors are able to compete at their highest genetic potential, not just the industry minimum of staying injury free.