This past September a very high level athlete was faced with a very difficult decision. A two time Olympian, silver medalist, 8100 points in the decathlon, faced the very possibility that his athletic career was over.
While preparing for push championships, he was doing explosive quarter squats with 280k, (616lbs) when the bar lost contact with his back and came down wrong on his vertebrae. The disc between C7 and T1 was herniated quite badly. Fast forward to push championships in late September. Watching him sprint, he had lost control over his left arm, it simply flailed in comparison to his right. By the end of the day of testing, the pain was at an extreme intensity, through his neck and arm.
He described nights where he would lay on the floor in so much pain, all the prescription medication he could handle not even putting a dent into the nerve pain.
On physical inspection, the left tricep had extreme atrophy, while he was able to resist gravity, the slightest muscle resistance simply would collapse the left tricep. There was also some atrophy through the left pec and rear deltoid. Pushing a sled caused a lot of pain. Now imagine pushing a sled and then loading into a bobsled for races. Bobsled rides aren't comfortable, in fact, they are violent. The vibration, G-forces and speed, not to mention taps/crashes wreak havoc on the neck and back. I didn't think he had a chance at competing at the world class level.
I did not think this was a case for chiropractic and manual therapy. I thought the only course of action was surgery. The neurosurgeon he saw took it a step further, saying that if he didn't have surgery, he may lose the use of his left arm.
He had other ideas, he decided to try to compete, to get through the pain. He did receive an injection for the pain, it lasted a few hours, So by default, we laid out a therapy and training plan. .
I took the bar off his back for all training and put a hold on all olympic lifts as I thought this would be to irritating to the trap/neck and fire up the nerve.
I adjusted his upper cervical and C5/6 area along with mid thoracic adjustments 3x a week. I did ART for the scaliness, joint capsules, upper trap, subscap, neuromuscular sleeve a few times a week. Gua Sha tools were used for some large knots and vertebral openings along C7,T1,2 and interspinous ligaments also 3x a week. We started some nerve flossing for the radial nerve when it was no longer extremely painful. He received some light traction with a towel, also 3-5x a week with our ATC. He did a lot of myofascial work using a lacrosse ball on the rotator cuff and trap on his own.
After a few months we started to reintroduce Cleans and then the Snatch. By Christmas break, he was Power Cleaning 150k and Snatching 120k. Gradually, some size started to return to the left tricep. He was able to floor press 130k. Pushups, which were originally almost impossible, are now just an afterthought.
One week ago, he was named to his 3rd Olympic team. From seeing him in September to seeing him now, I would not have believed the transformation. It's a credit to how much work he did to fight back. It puts a new perspective for me on what Chiropractic and manual therapy can do and definitely showed the medical community that surgery isn't the only option. But the biggest thing I take away from this is that there is really, absolutely no limit to what a person can achieve when they refuse to give up.