THE TERM “FUNCTION” IS A FAMILIAR ONE. To walk is to function. To eat is to function. To live is to function.
So you might be surprised to learn that very few people actually train their bodies to function at its optimal level. But why don’t they? While most people understand the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, few know exactly how to achieve it. That’s where dynamic functional training can help. “The main concept in this type of training is movements in all three planes of human movement, as opposed to traditional gym training, which is typically done in one plane,” says Aaron Salinger, DC. “It prepares the human body for real life activities of daily living.” And it achieves this by training muscles with three types of contraction: isometric, concentric, and eccentric. “When done at maximum intensity, isometric exercise works primarily the myofibrils,” says Salinger. “This gives the muscles strength, and makes them leaner, without increasing size. Concentric exercising affects primarily the sarcoplasm, which gives size to the muscles. Eccentric training is most beneficial for core stabilization.”
But functional training is not only a necessity in achieving overall wellness in patients. It also may be the key to taking your practice — and its bottom line — to the next level. “The better conditioned a patient is,” says Michael L. Underhill, DC, CCST, “the faster they will respond and the happier they will be.” As a result, Underhill says this can translate into more referrals for your practice and an improved financial picture.
“Insurance companies seem to know that helping patients with exercise both at home and in your practice leads to a win-win situation,” says Underhill, “and most of this type of care is covered under various policies.” But that’s not all. Michael Bennese, DC, says that “the beauty of the training is that it attracts compliant patients willing to work hard in order to gain results.”
“It makes practice fun for both the doctor and the patient,” he says. “Because of the highly efficient nature of the training, patients of all shapes and sizes actually look forward to exercising their bodies. And it becomes rewarding for both the patient and the doctor (and staff) to see the results.”
“I feel that active exercise is often one of the key missing links to the care of a patient,” says Underhill. “Once patients understand that, he says they will start coming to your practice looking for optimal health and will be eager to be active participants in their own care. But in order for patients to take notice, doctors have to believe first. Incorporating this type of training in your practice may seem difficult, but the payoff is well worth the preparation.
Bennese recommends hands-on training from the get-go. “Initial training on how to use the equipment is necessary,” he says. “A chiropractor should find a company willing to provide hands-on training and certification with ongoing seminars, workshops, and webinars. Training should also include a plan of action and support from day one.”
To satisfy the three types of exercises — isometric, concentric, and eccentric — Bennese recommends the following types of machines:
Concentric: “Efficient concentric loading requires activities performed on a whole body vibration machine capable of oscillating in the X, Y, and Z axis, which is what the body is naturally designed to do.”
Isometric: “To perform safe, but maximal and measurable isometric loading, you would need a device that allows the patient to put load on the machine as opposed to the machine putting the load on the patient. The machine would need software to measure the patient’s force output at each session.”
Eccentric: “Muscles act as springs during eccentric contractions. Most eccentric movement contractions allow us to store kinetic energy, which is then used during concentric contractions. This process occurs throughout the body and is known as the stretch shortening cycle. There are machines available that can safely accomplish this type of eccentric anaerobic core training.”
As for space requirements, Salinger says nearly any size room will get the job done. “An open rehabilitation area would be the best option for this type of training, but nearly any space can work.” Underhill does recommend, however, having your equipment in a room where every patient can see what is going on. “This often stimulates interest and conversation,” he says, “and can essentially be part of your internal marketing plan.”
Dynamic functional training is more than just a new modality to add to your practice. It’s a way of life. And, according to Salinger, “It creates a new type of health that will keep patients coming back.”
Associate editor of Chiropractic Economics.