If you think chiropractors simply "crack" backs, you're not alone. Scott Duke, D.C., owner of Duke Chiropractic in New York City, is accustomed to hearing this misconception.
"Sports chiropractors who are trained in muscle work, such as Active Release Technique (ART) and Graston, are probably the best manual therapists for preventing injury and optimizing performance," says Duke. "That's why there’s always a sports chiropractor on Olympic and professional sports teams."
For runners, chiropractic can be used for injury prevention because it emphasizes proper alignment of the spine and pelvis. The most common running-related injuries Duke sees in his patients, which range from recreational runners to Olympians and New York City Marathon winners, are plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, IT Band Syndrome, patella (knee) tracking problems and hip bursitis.
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Duke's first step in treating these injuries: Search for misalignment.
"Malalignment of the spine can cause unnecessary tension on one particular body part versus an equal distribution of pressure," he says. "I can't take care of anyone's chronic IT band problem without making sure their pelvis is in as perfect alignment as it can be. Otherwise, it’ll continue to wear, tear, and put strain on that one particular body part."
What Causes Improper Alignment?
Major causes of improper alignment include running in the same direction on the same course every day; running often slanted surfaces, such as a beach; and not replacing shoes every few hundred miles.
Fix these training errors that cause misalignment with a few simple tweaks:
Vary your running surface—pavement, track, asphalt, grass, dirt, wood chips—a few times a week, and you’ll naturally run on different courses.
Run as close to the water as possible when on the beach, as the sand tends to be more flat there.
Buy two of the same type of running shoes, and switch between the pairs.