Chiropractic + Naturopathic Doctor

Over the Mountains

By Emily Roback   

Features Clinical Patient Care

Daniel David Palmer of Iowa performed the first chiropractic adjustment on a partially deaf janitor, Harvey Lillard, in 1895.

Daniel David Palmer of Iowa performed the first chiropractic adjustment on a partially deaf janitor, Harvey Lillard, in 1895. Remarkably, Lillard later reported that his hearing had actually improved. It was not until the mid-1990s that a scholarly interest in chiropractic grew, a movement which benefited the efforts being made to improve the quality of service provided by DCs and, at the same time, establish clinical guidelines such as recommending manual therapies for neck and back pain. In terms of capability and adaptability, chiropractors have since become the health workhorses of this current decade.

Canadian fixed-wing racing pilot, Pete McLeod.
Photo courtesy Pete McLeod Racing



Apart from a host of clinical applications, chiropractors are often found working in varied sporting events across Canada, such as annual running races, university-level varsity sports, national competitions, and, of course, extreme sports. Despite this “seeming to be everywhere at once” symptom, chiropractors tend to remain the primary, alternative health-care choice for most competitive athletes. This article will discuss some examples that I have had the privilege to participate in.

During the 2003 Red Bull Air Race World Series season, there were only two aerial race venues being held, one in Austria and the other in Hungary. Since that time, several new countries have added their names to the list of participating nations and have hosted the races within their respective countries.

The Red Bull Air Race is an international series of aerial races in which competitors navigate a challenging obstacle course attempting to cross the finish line with the fastest time. Over the past few years, pilots have shattered world records, and in the process, have become international stars. Indeed, many have joined this championship series, including, a new fixed-wing pilot from Canada, Pete McLeod, who won his title in 2009. This motorized sport is extremely risky and requires additional safety measures to minimize injury. Chiropractor Dr. Antonio Schirru and RMT Sarah McLeod from Inner Balance in London, Ontario, have worked with some of the pilots, including Pete McLeod.

 “[Their treatments]…help keep my neck and low back pain – which often results from regular exposure to gravitational forces (g-forces) up to 12 times the force of gravity – in check,” remarked McLeod.

The flight posture of McLeod is considered to be supine. His seat is at an angle of 35-45 degrees, with feet raised to heart level, to maximize blood flow and reduce the likelihood of encountering a neck and/or back injury. According to Drew (2000), spinal symptoms such as neck pain – a temporary warning sign associated with pulling g-forces – are a common problem connected to pilots and frequently limit their flying performance. To avoid neck problems, pilots often aim to avoid certain head movements and “fix their neck” before exposing themselves to high g-forces.

As our pilots navigate the night skies, far below, night cyclists traverse the mountain trails during the “24 Hours of Adrenalin” bike race now held annually at the Canmore Nordic Centre in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in western Alberta. It is here, one night a year, that a team of enthusiastic health-care practitioners work tirelessly on mountain bikers’ sore legs and lower backs.

“I never rode my mountain bike in the dark before and, honestly, was nervous about doing so for the first time ever in a race. I had no idea what to expect,” commented David Cadrin, one of the mountain bikers participating in the race, while having a treatment session at two o’clock in the morning.

Cadrin stopped to have me evaluate muscle and joint stresses he was experiencing in his thighs, knees, and calves. (I had the privilege of spearheading the Canmore racing event.) I addressed his concerns and advised him that he was undergoing right knee instability with tight and tender hip flexors/lateral rotators (ileopsoas, sartorius), knee extensors (vastus medialis, rectus femoris), hip abductors (ilieotibial band, gluteus medius), and the plantar flexors (lateral and medial gastrocnemius.) Glen Beckel, massage therapist and owner of FX Massage Therapy, and Dr. Jessica Hiebert, a chiropractor and owner of Performance Spinal Health and Fitness, joined me in treating athletes at the event. As members of a therapeutic team, we all had one factor in common – each had a client/patient who was in the bike race.

In Central Alberta, my health-care team remains in high demand at the Half Ironman Triathlon taking place annually at Sylvan Lake in July. My colleagues, Dr. Heather Pritchard, RMT Nolan Griffin, RMT Matt Risk and I treat athletes from one until 5 o’clock on the last Sunday afternoon, in 15-minute increments. When asked how our team were able to keep our energy levels up, all members agreed that “having the ability to help athletes recover from a challenging and energetic event keeps us motivated.”

While the team treat athletes, I warm up and introduce myself to RN Michelle Perron-Allan, who occupies the adjoining tent. Two months later, Perron-Allan and I meet again to discuss the ins and outs of training and treating athletes who will be participating in the Ironman Triathlon Canada, Penticton, British Columbia, which will be held August 2012. At that time, I will have the pleasure of joining Michelle Perron-Allan as a member of the medical team.

By midnight, I may be found riding in a helicopter, surveying the Ironman Triathlon race course and watching a trail of little head lamps flicker through the mountains in British Columbia. According to Perron-Allan, the most common injuries that occur in a triathlon happen in the water. And, I plan to be ready!

All traditional aspects of chiropractic care can also clearly relate to aerial activities, and mountain and water races, but many of the issues athletes encounter are compounded by dramatic changes from within the environment. Fortunately chiropractors can and do adapt to pretty much all health-care situations faced by athletes, providing care for their racing pilots, mountain bikers and triathlon participants.


  1. Bettinelli et al. Effect of Gravity and Posture on Lung Mechanics. Journal of Applied Physiology. Dec 2002; Vol 93 (6):pp.2044-2052.
  2. Cadrin, David. Interview and Conversation. HatchMott MacDonald. 25 July 2010.
  3. Drew, W. Spinal Symptoms in Aviators and their Relationship to G-exposure and Aircraft Seating Angle. Aviat Space Environ Med. Jan 2000; Vol 1 (1): pp. 576-80.
  4. McLeod, Pete. Skype Interview and Conversation. Pete McLeod Racing. 5 January 2012.
  5. Perron-Allan, Michelle. Interview and Conversation. Ironman Triathlon Canada. 12 Sept 2011.


  1. Red Bull Air Race. Wikipedia: the free encyclopedia. January 2012. (Link:

Dr. Emily Roback is a chiropractor with Iron Mountain Chiropractic, practising in Aviation Chiropractic. Her aviation patients have inspired her to pursue a mountain ski guide certificate and private pilot licence to work in the heli-ski industry. In 2011, she presented a spinal health seminar for the Canadian Air Forces (Edmonton base), Calgary Police and Edmonton Police. Dr. Emily Roback can be contacted at

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