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If you think chiropractors simply “crack” backs, you’re not alone. As a chiropractor and physiotherapist, I’m accustomed to hearing this common misconception.

Sports chiropractors who are trained in muscle work are equipped with some of the finest tools for preventing injury and optimizing performance. That’s why you will always find a sports chiropractor on any Olympic, professional or semi-pro sports team.

For runners, chiropractic can be used for injury prevention because it emphasizes proper alignment for efficient biomechanics. The most common running-related injuries I see in our patients (which range from recreational runners to Olympians) are plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, iliotibial (IT) Band Syndrome, patella (knee) problems and hamstring strains.

Invariably, our first step in treating these injuries is to search for misalignment. Misalignment of the spine and/or muscles can cause unnecessary tension on one particular body part versus an equal distribution of pressure. I can’t take care of anyone’s chronic IT band problem without making sure their hips are working right with regard to strength, mobility and alignment. Otherwise, it’ll continue to wear, tear and put strain on that one particular body part.

This approach of treating the pain and figuring out where it is coming from is what makes a sports chiropractor such an asset. There is a prevalent philosophy and ongoing challenge in chiropractic to seek the cause of a problem. That’s what I enjoy best; I’m a problem solver.

Experience has shown that often solving problems means figuring things out that others have not been able to fix. My professional goal is to be a beacon for quick and effective answers. This is an important point because, to some people, time on the bench is money out of the bank. And for others where it is not really about money, getting off the bench just means they’re back in the game that much quicker!

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What are some pearls of wisdom for runners looking to prevent injury and increase performance on their own?

As Happy Gilmore said, “It’s all in the hips!” Make sure they are mobile, stable and strong.

Additionally, a once or twice weekly routine, set up from a qualified health care provider, allows you to work at the cause of your limitations, be it strength, balance or flexibility. Sports medicine at its finest is all about prevention.

My final piece of advice to any runner: Not getting hurt is one of the best things you can do to be a great runner. As elite athletes will tell you, staying in the game is a big part of reaching your full potential.

A.J. Gregg is a board-certified Chiropractic Physician and Physiotherapist at Hypo2 High Performance Sport Center. Go to hypo2sport.com or www.drajgregg.com for more information. He enjoys working with a variety of people, athletes and non-athletes, and spends his free time enjoying all of Flagstaff’s beautiful outdoors and community.

Myles Schrag is coordinating editor for High Country Running. He welcomes submissions (500-word maximum) about any aspect of the local running scene. You can reach him at myless@hkusa.com.

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