Yes, it’s true. As a Newmarket chiropractor, I see plenty of weekend warriors and elite athletes who are always trying to increase their performance. We see plenty of patients with low back pain and headaches, but we also see many people who are seeking chiropractic for its performance-enhancing benefits. If you have ever picked up something heavy or worked out with weights, you know that the angle you pick something up affects your ability to move the object. Similarly, if you have ever worked out with weights, you know that during certain phases of an exercise you feel stronger than during other parts of the movement.
Without getting too technical, there is an optimal overlap of an individual muscle fibre (sarcomeres) that produces the most tension – at resting length. That’s right, when your muscles are at resting length, they are able to achieve the most amount of tension (think of your arm bent at the elbow, you can generate much more strength at this position than when your arm is straight). This is where spinal alignment is key in providing symmetry on each side of the spine and pelvis for muscle attachments. Your spine is straight from the font and has curves from the side for many different reasons. One reason is to provide attachments for muscles that act like “pulley” systems to allow you to move.
Let’s keep this simple and focus on the muscles that run along the side of your lower spine for an example. When your pelvis is not level, or your spine is shifted to one side, the muscles are either shortened or lengthened on opposite sides. This means the muscles are NOT a resting length. The length-tension relationship tells us that the tension available during contraction is not optimal, because the muscle lengths are either stretched or lengthened beyond resting length. Decrease in strength and performance is certain. This is a very simplistic way of looking at performance degradation, but the impacts of multiple areas of mis-alignment in your spine can have vast implications on your performance.
Normal spinal alignment is not only important in assuring that the resting length of the spinal musculature is maintained (for strength), but it is also very important for the nerves that run the body, specifically the muscles, to be free from interference. The nerves tell the muscles to contract, so if there is any pressure or inflammation around the nerves, their ability to tell the muscles to contract will be negatively impacted, thereby reducing your performance.
How can you tell if your performance is being hindered by poor spinal alignment? A simple standing weight-bearing x-ray will reveal whether you have any spinal imbalances, damaged discs, or even a short leg. Whether you want to improve your golf swing or set a new PR for a deadlift, making sure your pelvis and spine are in the proper alignment is imperative for maximum performance.
P.S. If you want to see this explained further, view the video below.