The Overuse of Youth

Young athletes are a big part of my practice.  From sprained ankles to separated shoulders to low back pain, my goal with them, as with all my patients, is to decrease pain and increase function as quickly as possible.  But with young athletes in particular, I want to try to minimize the effect that an injury has on the rest of their body long-term.  Our bodies are masters of compensation you see, so if one area becomes weak or injured or dysfunctional, another area steps up to counterbalance.  And herein lies the problem: where did the injury start?  Can we chase the dysfunction throughout the body to find the initial culprit?

Troubling trends that I’m finding amongst these young athletes are overuse injuries.  Most often, these kids are playing their primary sport nearly year-round.  Summer hockey.  Winter ball.  Indoor soccer.  In 2016, the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine released an Early Sport Specialization Consensus Statement, which you can read by clicking HERE.

AOSSM

This is my favourite part:

“The primary outcome of this think tank was that there is no evidence that young children will benefit from early sport specialization in the majority of sports. They are subject to overuse injury and burnout from concentrated activity. Early multisport participation will not deter young athletes from long-term competitive athletic success.”

Please take a moment to read that again.  “No evidence” of “benefit” from “early sport specialization.”  And a whole lotta downside in the form burnout and overuse injury.

Make no mistake, I love youth sport.  I’m a huge competitor and I was raised playing every sport around, as do my children.  But remember, better movers make better athletes, and your child’s body will not learn to move well if it has only been expected to do the same thing over and over again.  Multi-dimensional.  Multi-sport.  Multi-movement.  That’s the key to a well-balanced athlete, and more importantly, a healthy human body.

If nothing else, I hope this post gives you some food for thought.  Parents have thousands of choices to make throughout their children’s lives, and this one is a big one.

hockey rules


Tough Love

I’m here for some tough love today.

I work in a sports-based clinic, and while we are by no means an athletes-only environment, we do tend to attract an active population of patients. In fact, active-lifestyle patients are the reason I became a chiropractor in the first place. I had finished my Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Calgary and was unsure of my next steps- my boyfriend’s cousin was a chiropractor and needed front desk help, so I began working there and my path became clear. A year later, I packed up my worldly possessions, moved across the country to attend CMCC in Toronto, and (insert cliché here) the rest is history.  Fitness and health is what I’m all about; I don’t just talk the talk, I walk the walk, and being active is one of my core values. So perhaps it comes no surprise that I ended up working at a clinic that follows the same principles.

Let’s get back to the tough love part:

You cannot expect your body to be pain-free if you do not treat it well. Please read that again, and hear me out. If you sit at work all day and do not incorporate fitness into your life, there is only so much I can do for your back pain. If you carry extra weight and ignore your rehabilitation exercises, there is only so much I can do for your knee pain. If your workplace ergonomics are terrible and you work 60 hours per week, there is only so much I can do for your neck pain.

Listen, we’re in this together. In fact, I pride myself on getting people feeling better very quickly. I will do my part, but please, you have to do yours too.

Tough love can be confrontational and irritating and uncomfortable, so if you’re feeling that now, please accept my very-Canadian apology, and make a plan. Make a plan to take charge of your health. As we age, our healing rates slow down. Cell turnover drops and recovery slows.

Make a plan to move more, for movement is the fountain of youth.

It doesn’t have to be running or CrossFit or yoga (my personal favourites), but it has to raise your heart rate, stress your muscles, and put your joints in motion.

Short and sweet. Black and white. To the point.

Get moving.

Move image


“and your back pain is going to go away”

“You know what really helped me?” a patient recently said during her second treatment with me.  “The fact that you told me that my back wasn’t going to go out.

I hear this type of thing often.  This particular patient was suffering with lower back pain, and had a previous history of an exceptionally debilitating episode that made her temporarily unable to care for her two young children.  Her fear level was high.  On her first visit to the clinic, I spent much of our time together talking with her, explaining what was happening to her back, and why she was having pain.  Patient education is patient empowerment.  I did some hands-on manual therapy and then we chatted about rehabilitation exercises and the importance of movement, something that people in pain tend to avoid.  The last words I said to her before she left were along the lines of “don’t worry, you’re going to be fine, and your back pain is going to go away.”  A huge part of my job is patient education, because knowledge is power.

And just so that we’re all on the same page moving forward, backs don’t “go out” and then “go back in,” running does not cause arthritis in your knees, and getting adjusted three times a week for the rest of your life will not prevent stage three spinal degeneration.  Yet these are all proclamations that patients come in and tell me about themselves; these blanket statements are untrue and damaging, and in most cases, patients have been told these things by a health professional.  As chiropractors, and certainly as all healthcare providers, we cannot underestimate the power of our words for the good and for the bad.  If you have a patient’s trust and respect, you have the power to remarkably alter the course of their healing and the perception of their body’s abilities through your words alone.

This is the same reason that medical imaging can often be detrimental; because it affects a patient’s psyche.  Did you know that in many cases, there is actually a very poor correlation between what is shown on a medical image (an X-ray, for example) and a patient’s symptomatology?  But if a patient is shown an x-ray of “degenerative joint disease” (that’s a fancy term for arthritis) in their spine, they will come to believe that they have an arthritic, incapable, dysfunctional body.  This person then tends to become fearful of movement and therefore moves less.  And what creates a perfect storm for unhealthy joints?  Lack of movement.  Herein lies the problem.

Healthcare professionals: please do be careful with your words, and patients: please do be careful of what you listen to.

sticker375x360-u3