Chiropractic research shows performance improvement for athletes

2018 is off to a great start for the Centre for Chiropractic Research. A newly published study showed that chiropractic care increased muscle strength in a group of elite athletes (1).

Many top-level athletes use chiropractic care because they believe it improves their performance. Our new study helps explain why this may be the case. The cool thing is that you don’t need to be a top athlete to gain strength from chiropractic care. Increases in strength have also been shown in young healthy adults (2).

The athlete study investigated the effects of chiropractic care on muscle strength in a group of elite Taekwondo athletes. In this randomised controlled trial we measured muscle strength in the athlete’s leg muscles before and after a single session of chiropractic care or a control intervention. To explore whether any changes were occurring at the level of the brain or the level of the spinal cord level we also measured the way the brain could drive the muscle and tested spinal cord excitability.

The results of this study showed that in this group of top-level athletes, a single session of chiropractic care resulted in increased strength and cortical drive to their leg muscles. The strength findings lasted for 30 minutes and the cortical drive increase persisted for at least 60 minutes.

What does this mean you may be thinking? There is obviously a lot more research that needs to be done, but it suggests to us that it would be well worth getting checked and adjusted before an athlete competes. This study also suggests – again – that the changes that occur with chiropractic adjustments occur in the brain, in this case enabling the brain to drive that muscle at a greater level than before the adjustments were given. We are now excited to follow up why and how this happens.

This research was undertaken in collaboration with the University of Southern Denmark, Western Sydney University, Koç University, the Nordic Institute of Chiropractic and Clinical Biomechanics, and Aalborg University. The study was funded by grants from the Danish Chiropractors Foundation and Hamblin Chiropractic Research Fund Trust. We are very grateful for their support for this work. For more information on the New Zealand College of Chiropractic Centre for Chiropractic Research, and ways that you can support future research like this, please visit http://chiropracticresearch.ac.nz/

1. Lykke Christiansen, T., Niazi, I., Holt, K., Nedergaard, R., Duehr, J., Allen, K., Marshall, P., Türker, K., Hartvigsen, J., Haavik, H. (2018). The Effects of a Single Session of Spinal Manipulation on Strength and Cortical Drive in Athletes. European Journal of Applied Physiology. In press https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-018-3799-x

2. Niazi, I. K., Türker, K. S., Flavel, S., Kinget, M., Duehr, J., & Haavik, H. (2015). Changes in H-reflex and V-waves following spinal manipulation. Experimental brain research, 233(4), 1165-1173.

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