Sports Celebrity
by Dr Warren van Zyl DC

Unusual results

Keywords: sports celebrity, celebrity sports, L4 lumbar spine, rotator cuff syndrome

This chapter, Sports Celebrity, will give you a good idea of the variety of problems, pain and dysfunction chiropractic can help you with. I have specifically only included in this case study section, treatment results I have experienced that are not psychosomatic or placebo effect.

Current rugby Springbok, JP Petersen, who is currently under care by Dr van Zijl, and an admirer.

What I mean by this is that if a sports celebrity comes in for a specific ailment, say a headache, and I suggest to my patient that our results for the treatment of headaches are very good, say an 80% success rate, then the question always arises as to how much the results were because of expectation / belief / placebo / psychosomatic, and how much was due to the actual therapy given, that is the chiropractic adjustment. So, to eliminate that debate, I have cases where patients came in for a certain problem, and other problems that they had not mentioned or that we had not discussed then resolved.

The treatment of ‘colic’ in babies and the good results we get is a good example of where there can be no psychosomatic component or placebo effect. Any sports celebrity babies?!! Babies between two and twelve weeks old cannot comprehend any suggestion - so too, with animals. Adjustments on dogs, horses and other animals receive good results with no placebo effect. Colic Chiropractic ...

The Chiropractic Profession has had good results treating the following ailments and dysfunctions. However, before I mention these, let me clarify some terminology and language. In any profession or circumstance, the way you as an individual interpret the language used, may create your perceptions.

Some Chiropractors prefer to state that they do not treat any particular disorder or dysfunction, that they only diagnose subluxations, and then correct subluxations. Whatever the language used, the layperson will very often still refer to his or her complaint in reference to the pain experienced or to some area on the sports celebrity 's body.

Others will focus on lower back pain including central and one sided pain, buttock pain, pain referred to the hip, groin or leg; neck pain including shoulder, arm or head pain, whiplash and muscular tension; disc lesions and sciatica including pain, tingling or numbness in the leg, foot, calf or testicles; joint disorders, shoulder, elbow, wrist, knee, ankle and foot as described under sports chiropractic injuries; sports injuries including overuse, repetitive type sprain/strain. Headaches and migraines, those that relate to the shoulder, neck and jaw, and chronic muscular tension; trapped nerves including pain, tingling, numbness, weakness, referring to the abdomen, groin, leg, arm or chest.

Chiropractors have also had many good clinical results with the sports celebrity over the years with visceral/organ related problems. This is difficult to prove scientifically, as some of these problems may be caused by nerve entrapment or interference, but many also have medical origins and causes. As a health care provider, we should be aware of the many possible causes and origins of dis-ease of the human body, educate our patients and the public as to what we can possibly help with to improve health and well being, and to what our boundaries and limitations are, and when we need to refer to other professionals and specialists.

Case Study 1: A female sports celebrity marathon runner, Mary, came to see me in April of 1995, complaining of left ankle pain. After an examination and assessment of the ankle I discovered that the biomechanics of the ankle were in good working order. There was also no evidence of a sprain/strain soft tissue injury. On examination of Mary’s back I found the lumbar 4/5 facet joint (lower back vertebral joint) subluxated/fixated. Ankle joint pain ...

A spinal adjustment to her L4/5 facet joint was done to reduce the subluxation and muscular spasm. Three treatment sessions were needed and the problem was resolved. No more ankle pain.

Comment: One must remember that with running and training for other sports, you do run on uneven surfaces. The camber on the road can result in your lower back taking strain and compensating causing facet joint restriction and muscle spasm. This in turn can place undue pressure on your knees, ankles or any other part of your body, because you are now compensating for your lower back. Also, running uphill can place strain on your lower back and running downhill can cause excess pressure on your knees. Compensating for knee pain can now place pressure on your lower back. So, one can now see how the kinetic chain of the body reacts - one area affecting another if not detected and corrected at an early stage. L4 lumbar spine ...

Case Study 2: Mary then referred her running partner, sports celebrity Alex to me. They were both training for the ultra distance Comrades marathon held annually between Durban and Pietermaritzburg. Alex complained of knee pain. It is not surprising, and it is significant, that as training partners running the same routes, they both picked up a similar injury. Again biomechanics and soft tissue of the knee did not present any problem. Three adjustments to L3/4 facet joint and his knee pain was resolved. Lumbar facet syndrome ...

Comment: For those of you who have not studied anatomy it may be interesting to look at an anatomy chart or book depicting all the nerves in your body, where they exit the spine, and what muscles, organs and tissues they innervate. It will then make more sense when you see that the nerve that exits at lumbar three innervates the knee, lumbar four innervates the ankle and so on. Very often these nerves are not ‘pinched’ as is often described, but merely exerting enough pressure to cause referred pain, tingling, ‘pins & needles’ and/or numbness. Hence the name, ‘neuromusculoskeletal’: nerves, muscles and joints. Not only the sports celebrity has these problems

In both these cases, Mary and Alex expected me to treat where the pain was, their ankle and knee respectively. But, that is not where I found the problem to be and therefore, there was no expectation on their part that their pain could be resolved from their back.

Case Study 3: During 1998, Janice, a 39 year old mother and sports celebrity came to see me complaining of right shoulder pain. My philosophy on treatment is a holistic one, that is, to treat the whole body. Therefore, when someone comes in for shoulder pain, or their big toe is numb, I will check the whole body to see if there are any compensations anywhere in the body that may be affecting the pain area, and to find the primary causes of the problem. After the third treatment session, Janice told me that her incontinence problem of eight years had cleared up. It had been severe, she was up many times during the night to relieve herself and she said it had been an embarrassment to her on buses and planes. From the first session I had detected that her L2-L3 facet joints were chronically subluxated. I remember the adjustment, a very specific movement that caused her some discomfort when performing, as she had no previous pain in that area. After seven treatment sessions her shoulder complaint was resolved, but she was even more delighted that her incontinence problem was now a thing of the past.

Case Study 4: In 2000, Marco, age 26, another sports celebrity came to see me complaining of mid–lower back pain. He owned a restaurant and did a great deal of the prep work in the kitchen himself, which required bending forward for long periods resulting in the pain. Before the second treatment session he told me that the testicular pain he had experienced for nearly a year had gone after the first adjustment. Marco had seen two urologists, one had recommended surgery, while the other was not sure what the problem was, and had suggested that he give the problem time and see if it got better on its own.

Case Study 5: Susan M came to see me in May 2003 after a referral from her physiotherapist, complaining of lower back pain. Susan received five treatment sessions and her lower back problem was resolved. After the third treatment she revealed that from the first treatment she had not experienced any headaches. As a result of a car accident that occurred thirteen years earlier, sports celebrity Susan had suffered from headaches on a daily basis. She had not told me about her headaches as she thought there was nothing I could do as she had them for so long, and they were something she thought she ‘just had to live with’ for the rest of her life. I had adjusted C1/Atlas and C2/Axis where there was a major subluxation. Atlanto occiput anatomy ...

Case Study 6: Many significant results have come with extremity adjustments, which I cover in detail in the sports chiropractic chapter. John Allan, South African and Scottish sports celebrity rugby hooker frequented my offices during his playing days in the 1990’s. One of the problems I attended to regularly was an old ankle injury. As explained in the sports chiropractic chapter, the most common ankle sprain is externally/outward. The talus bone moves anteriorly and fixates resulting in limited flexion of the ankle joint. This is very often why old ankle injuries seem very stiff and never seem to have the same mobility and flexibility as before. John had sprained his ankles many times over a period of ten years so there was also a great deal of scar tissue associated with the stiffness. However, after a talus adjustment his ankle felt free again and lasted a few weeks until he needed another ‘loosening up’.

Comment: If these ankle injuries and other extremity problems are assessed at an early stage, then it is possible to avoid it developing into a chronic problem.

Case Study 7: During the 1997 cricket season I was called to help the South African team during one of their games at Kingsmead in Durban. After treating a few of the sports celebrity players, one of the management team asked me if I would take a look at his shoulder. He had hurt it a year earlier, had some physiotherapy, but he could still not lift his right arm above the height of his shoulder and could not place his right hand or arm behind his back. If shoulder problems are left untreated this long, then the whole shoulder girdle becomes affected, and can result in what’s called a ‘frozen shoulder’. Without going into too much detail as you can refer to the sports chiropractic chapter on the shoulder, this man’s shoulder problem was resolved in one treatment. He could lift his arm high above his head and behind his back. I adjusted his sterno-clavicular joint (collarbone where it joins the sternum), his glenohumeral joint (shoulder ball & socket joint), and his upper thoracics next to his scapula (shoulder blade).

Comment: The reason why sports chiropractors get such good results with extremity treatment is that there are not many specialists who are trained to perform these manipulation techniques. Unless you are a chiropractor or osteopath with specialized training in extremities, or a physician who specializes in manipulation techniques, you will be unable to correct and resolve these problems. Ever wondered why some extremity problems just do not respond, or take forever to heal? Many therapists focus on the soft tissue element of the injury and ignore joint articulation and function.

This does not mean that the above list of problems respond 100% of the time. Every sports celebrity 's body is different and responds differently to treatment, the techniques used, and to the patient – practitioner rapport.

It is my opinion that the mind-body connection plays an important role in all types of healing. Call it psychoneuroimmunology, the psychosomatic component, spontaneous remission, the placebo effect, or any other of the many ways different cultures have of explaining this component of healing. Chiropractic is no exception!



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Interesting challenges of the day

1. Mr S is a 76 year old man with neck pain of some 9 months duration. Luckily, most of the discomfort is upper cervical which is only rarely arthritic; his lower cervical spine is a degenerative mess that I've left alone. After seven treatments his pain and stiffness is 50 percent better, and he's happy in the circumstances. He can sleep through the night now and that makes a huge difference.

2. Mr P is 32 year old man with very severe lower back pain radiating to the big toe which is 30 percent numb. He had an episode three weeks ago, took anti inflammatories and was soon better as is typical of the medial disc herniation. But before it healed, after a trivia it came roaring back, much worse. The characteristic crossed sign was evident; sitting in a chair, straightening the right leg provoked severe left back pain and tingling in the leg. He's doing well.

3. Severe lower back pain is scary; just ask Mrs P. Just watching her get out of the car I she was in trouble; she had a slipped disc at L4 making her lean towards the opposite side; luckily she had no pain in the leg. Despite family pressure that this was far too severe for a chiropractor, she persevered. Within five days she was standing upright, and after two weeks almost painfree. 

Despite a hectic job, she wisely took my advice and stayed home for what I call exercising bed rest.

4. Mr S has had lower back, groin and back of thigh and calf pain for fourth months.

He has a pincer deformity in the hip causing the stabs in the groin, and a degenerative facet causing the sciatica. Both are responding well to chiropractic and he's well pleased; sixty five percent better after three treatments.

5. Mr T is a wise man; he's taken a warning TIA seriously and has lost 15 pounds, and has at least as much again to lose. A change to a low starch diet and half hour daily walk has made the difference; but the walking is making his foot and back miserable. The expensive orthotic is hopeless; luckily his hips and back are fine, but he needs a simple heel lift.

6. I too have had serious lower back issues, luckily fixed by my own chiropractor; so I too have to do my exercises, take care when lifting supers full of honey, gardening and using the chainsaw. Regaining the function of your spine is just as important as the pain.

7. My own granddaughter, only 7 is hypermobile giving her pelvic, knee and ankle issues. Xrays show a mildly dysplastic hip. Years ago we would have called it growing pains. She too regularly needs chiropractic care and luckily responds well. Increased range of motion is more difficult than too stiff in my opinion. Our care is for kids too.

8. This 65 year old lady is a serious gardener; every day she is bending, lifting and digging for 2 to 3 hours a day. It regularly catches her in the sacroiliac joint, so she has a treatment once a month that sorts it out. She does her lower back exercises faithfully.

9. This 88 year old lady is an inspiration; every day she is busy in the community. With a nasty scoliosis she manages very well with a chiropractic adjustment every six weeks and exercises faithfully done.  

10. Mr X is a 71 year old retired man who wants to continue with maintenance care every six to eight weeks; he had suffered from two years of lower back pain when he first came a year ago. He has no discomfort now after 8 chiropractic treatments, but is aware that danger lurks.

11. Mrs C has been having severe headaches, and taking a lot of analgesics. It's a non complicated upper cervical facet syndrome, and she's doing well.

12. Mr D is a 38 old year man with chronic shoulder pain after a rotator cuff tear playing cricket. It responded well to treatment, but he knows he must do his exercises every day; for two years he couldn't sleep on that shoulder.

13. Mr D, a 71 year old man, has a severe ache in the shoulder and midback since working above his head. Trapped nerve tests are negative but he has advanced degenerative joints of Luschka; after just two treatments he is 50 percent better. Can we reach 90?

And so the day goes; chiropractors shouldn't be treating the elderly most medical sites state but that's so much bunkum.



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Interesting questions from visitors

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You helped me quite some time back with a soothing and professional response which turned out to be exactly correct. I now consult a local chiropractor. You write a superb newsletter, too.

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