Sports chiropractic: What is it and will it help me?

If you hear the word chiropractic treatment, you might imagine a brief, 1-2 minute appointment where the doctor quickly adjusts their entire spine and then sends them on their way. However, there are so many different types and specialties within the chiropractic profession and they provide various types of treatments. In particular, the world of sports chiropractic. I am a board certified sports chiropractor and I want people to know that they can recover, heal and thrive after years of chronic pain! Sports chiropractic is for EVERYONE with a body. Because we are all designed to move well without pain.  And you deserve a highly specialized treatment plan that is catered to your needs. In this blog, I want to explain what exactly is a sports chiropractor, what kind of injuries/pain a sports chiropractor treats and what methods/techniques we use to effectively treat a wide variety of injuries. 

When I use the term sports chiropractic, I am referring to the post-graduate schooling and certification/specialization of either the CCSP (Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician) or the DACBSP (Diplomate of the American Chiropractic Board of Sports Practitioners).  The CCSP has completed a minimum of 100 hours of post doctoral education in specialized sports medicine topics and must pass a board examination.  The DACBSP is the highest level of achievement. The doctor has completed over 300 postgraduate classroom hours, plus over 100 hours of on-field experience. The DACBSP must then pass a rigorous written and practical examination and must complete a written project requirement.  It is important to determine if your sports chiropractor has one of these distinctions because they are the best in healthcare for people of all activity levels – high-caliber athletes, recreational athletes or those seeking to feel great engaging in daily activities (1).  It is possible to go to a chiropractor who claims they focus on sports/athletes, but does not have the proper schooling.  To find a sports chiropractor near you, click here.

10 things you should know about certified sports chiropractors.  They:

  1. Possess specialized knowledge of sports injuries and physical fitness
  2. Are experts in the function of the body during movement, from high-level athletics to everyday activities
  3. Can help optimize athletic performance by applying an advanced understanding of musculoskeletal function and performance enhancement
  4. Offer individualized care that extends beyond the spinal adjustment to include direct treatment of muscles, joints and connective tissues
  5. Focus on total body wellness and reaching optimal functioning, not just reducing pain
  6. Are immersed in the latest sports medicine research, trends and treatment techniques
  7. Can integrate seamlessly with other healthcare practitioners to optimize your medical care
  8. Are passionate proponents of physical fitness and skilled sports medicine practitioners
  9. Will help you achieve YOUR peak performance with a breadth and depth of knowledge found only with their specific training
  10. Comprise the top tier of the chiropractic profession (1)

There are typically two types of injuries that a sports chiropractor will see in their practice.  The acute injury and the chronic injury.  An acute injury is caused by a direct trauma and is also accompanied by symptoms such as bruising, swelling, spasm, and moderate to severe pain.  An example of an acute injury is an ankle sprain that is the direct result of a basketball player twisting their ankle by stepping on an opponents shoe or foot.  A chronic injury is usually related to overuse and develops gradually over time (2).  These injuries occur from repetitive movements, improper biomechanics or failure to use the principle of progressive overload when starting a new workout routine or regime.  An example of a chronic injury is golfers elbow, or tendinitis of any sort.  In our office, we have successfully treated the following list of injuries/pain:

  • Low Back Pain
  • Disc Herniation
  • Sciatica
  • Ankle Sprains
  • Hammer Toes
  • Bunions
  • Foot Pronation
  • Plantar Fasciitis/Foot Pain
  • Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Skin Splints
  • Chronic Compartment Syndrome
  • Achilles Tendinitis
  • Calf Tear
  • Bakers Cyst
  • Knee Pain
  • Patellar Instability
  • Iliotibial Band Syndrome
  • Bursitis of any kind/location
  • Jumper’s Knee
  • Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
  • Meniscus Tears
  • ACL/PCL/LCL/MCL Sprains
  • Quad Strains
  • Hamstring Strains
  • Groin Strain
  • Snapping Hip
  • Hip Flexor tightness/pain
  • Hip Impingement
  • Tight Hips
  • SI Joint Pain
  • Posture related issues
  • Neck Pain
  • Headaches
  • Vertigo
  • TMJ
  • Impingement Syndrome
  • Rotator Cuff Strains
  • Scapular Dyskinesis
  • Golfer and Tennis Elbow
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Finger and Hand Pain
  • Trigger Finger
  • Bicipital Tendinitis
  • Contusions
  • Overall Sports Performance 
  • Many More 

A distinguishing feature of certified sports chiropractic treatment is the multi-faceted approach to care.  In our office, we use a combination of soft tissue treatment, movement assessment and rehabilitative exercises, chiropractic manipulative treatment (CMT) (the adjustment), and lifestyle and behavior modifications. 

Soft tissue treatment is designed to target the musculoskeletal system.  The goal for soft tissue treatment varies depending on the specific characteristics and symptoms of the muscle/tissue.  Let’s use the example of the above-mentioned ankle sprain.  As an acute injury, this ankle may exhibit some swelling in the tissues surrounding the joint.  An effective soft tissue treatment would be effleurage, a massage technique that helps the lymphatic system drain inflammation from the injured area to the heart.  If this patient has had repeated ankle sprains for many years, then the musculature that controls and stabilizes the ankle joint may exhibit characteristics of overuse.  These characteristics could include trigger points, hypertonicity, adhesions/scar tissue, spasm and stiffness.  We use a variety of soft tissue techniques to treat these characteristics including Active Release Technique, Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization, cupping, Ischemic Compression and others.  These techniques create microtrauma to the tissues to stimulate the body’s natural inflammatory response.  This response will actually repair old injuries to the muscle and lay down better quality tissue.  The body has an incredible capacity to heal!  You do not have to live in chronic pain.  Pretty freaking neat. 

Chiropractic Manipulative Treatment (CMT) (aka “popping”) is unique to the chiropractic field. I am aware that some physical therapists may do joint mobilizations, but they do not get the rigorous schooling that chiropractors receive.  There are different explanations and theories on what exactly is happening to the joint when it makes this popping sound, or even the reason to apply this type of treatment.  For the providers at Apex Sports Medicine, the reason for this treatment, and most others, boils down to one goal: improve movement.  Joints are all designed to move in particular directions, degrees and patterns. It is your chiropractor’s job to determine if the joints are limited in any of these ways and apply a very controlled and specific adjustment to improve that deficit.  

Both the soft tissue treatment and CMT are designed to help treat the symptoms of what I see as an underlying movement issue.  Maybe a patient moved in the wrong direction, too fast too soon, or they are not moving enough.  Regardless, we believe that most ailments of the neuromusculoskeletal system can be distilled down to a movement issue.  So, we believe that incorporating movement assessments and applying rehabilitative and corrective exercise are quite literally the most important aspect of our successful treatment plans.  Our goal with movement assessments is to determine any weaknesses in muscles, joints or movement patterns.  We then use exercises that are tailored to the patient to correct and support these issues.  The changes that are made with rehabilitative and corrective exercises are what create LASTING relief to the neuromusculoskeletal system and how we “fix it gone”.  

Lifestyle and behavior modifications are truly individualized to each patient and designed to help support the patient when they are not in the clinic.  These modifications help to make the treatment effective.  For example, if a patient is being treated for neck pain that is directly affected by their work posture (desk work), then we may suggest that they set a timer to move their body every hour to reduce postural stress and fatigue on the related muscles.  Patients will only see us for max one hour per week for treatment.  So it is essential that they get guidance and tools to improve their at-home habits.  We can not out-treat poor habits!  

I am passionate about sports chiropractic and the changes I see with our patients are truly incredible.  I hope this blog has given you some insight into the world of sports chiropractic and even some hope if you are struggling with any injuries.  I genuinely believe that sports chiropractic is for everyone and that a certified sports chiropractor can tailor a treatment to you regardless of what ails you! To learn more about Apex Sports Medicine and/or become a patient, click here.  If you would like to sign up for my newsletter to receive all kinds of helpful tips, guides, videos, you can sign up here. 

  1.  Homepage – American Chiropractic Board of Sports Physicians.” American Chiropractic Board of Sports Physicians, 17 Feb. 2023,
  1. NIAMS Health Information on Sports Injuries.” National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, 3 Mar. 2022,,and%20develop%20gradually%20over%20time.

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