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Baseball and Chiropractic

Two things you might not think go together. But they do.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- Sometime last October, around the time I was racing from Chicago to Pittsburgh to St. Louis back to Chicago, I did something to my neck. Maybe opening a car door the wrong way, picking up a piece of luggage that was too heavy, I'm not even sure.

I didn't realize it at the time, but a few weeks later, around the time the Cubs were quietly leaving the postseason at the hands of the Mets, I began to have pain in my right arm. I had no idea where this came from, but it made it difficult at times to write stories for this site, and the pain was bad enough that it began waking me up at night.

I got misdiagnosed by one doctor; another gave me a prescription that made the pain go away for a while, but in January it came back and at times was excruciating.

A number of years ago I had seen a chiropractor in Chicago, who did good work on me and I was sorry when she moved to California (check out something interesting about her here). So I thought I'd try that again, and fired up the Google machine to find one in Scottsdale.

By random chance I happened to find a chiropractor who treats major-league baseball players as part of her practice. (There's lots of signed memorabilia in her office, too.)

I saw Dr. Alicia Myers several times just before spring training games began, and through a combination of massage and chiropractic adjustment, the pain in my arm is gone. Turns out I had a pinched nerve in my neck that was radiating pain down my right arm. If you've had one of those, you know how extremely painful they can be. I'm really lucky to have found someone who's really good at what she does.

I asked Dr. Myers to tell me, without revealing any personal information (she can't, of course, due to HIPAA laws), what she helps ballplayers with. Here's what she told me.

When a player first comes in it is usually because their trainer has tried everything possible in the clubhouse to fix them but there's an issue with either pain, loss of motion, chronic usage, tendonitis or overall wellbeing that still needs to be addressed. Many of the players have told me that I do a very extensive one hour exam. After this orthopedic, neurological and chiropractic exam I determine if radiographs are needed. If so, we take all needed X-rays and I have the player come back the next day or later after I have had time to sit down and study all the results.

When I have determined the cause of the problem, the magic begins to happen! I want to make sure that all of their nerves are functioning at 100 percent capacity. Seth Sharpless, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Colorado, did a study that found that the pressure/weight of one quarter against a nerve can decreases its nerve conduction velocity by 60 percent. Think about this... this means that baseball players affected by this might only be able to use 40 percent of their full capacity when playing a game! Thus if I do a gentle diversified adjustment to the bone that is putting pressure on the nerve, and relieve that pressure, that can increase the range of motion in the shoulder. In the case of pitchers it can help them regain lost velocity.

To verify this I always have my player lay on their back on my table. I then have them lift their arm up and "hold it" while I try to push it down. If there is a pinched nerve somewhere I (and I'm a woman weighing only a buck 50) can easily push their arm down with little pressure. The areas that usually present issues are neck, midback, the acromioclavicular joint (the joint at the top of the shoulder) or even the sternoclavicular joint (the joint between the sternum and clavicle). Each player is different in his core strength and mobility, but usually it only takes about five minutes to repair the neurological issue and the player is then retested. If the correction is complete his arm strength can improve by as much as 60 percent and it is very noticeable. Usually the player is amazed at the difference he experiences.

Chiropractic is used in sports not only to help those in pain but also to function better overall.

I realize chiropractic isn't for everyone. But I can tell you it worked wonders for me, and Dr. Myers says she's helped many baseball players who are suffering nerve issues return to full functioning. Thanks to her for this informative discussion on how alternative remedies can help professional athletes get back to 100 percent.