Keeping Athletes at the Top with Chiropractic

Ashley Liew chiropractor to athletes

Q&A with Ashley Liew, D.C., ’16, of Family Health Chiropractic Clinic in Singapore

Ashley Liew, D.C., is a 2016 Sherman College graduate and practices at Family Health Chiropractic Clinic in Singapore. In addition to caring for many athletes and families in his practice, he is a marathoner himself, managed by ONEathlete. We recently asked him a few questions about chiropractic, sports and what led him to Sherman College and a career in this profession.

 

What do you like most about the chiropractic profession?

Chiropractic involves the whole human body! It is amazingly connected in so many ways by means of the nervous system. Before I took up sports, I played in a string orchestra, so I liken the nervous system to the orchestra conductor that coordinates all aspects of the human body, not just the musculoskeletal aspects.

 

Chiropractic is a holistic profession that deals with optimum nervous system functioning, far more than just pain. For example, a triathlete with initial spinal disc herniation issues not only eased back into long-distance training but could carry his children again. A senior patient that used to walk with difficulty due to severe hunching is now able to carry herself significantly straighter naturally. An infant with severe reflux issues has had them resolved. Just seeing a smile from these patients and their caretakers gives me great joy. The beauty of chiropractic is looking into the root cause, rather than treating the symptoms.

 

How has chiropractic benefited you?

I have benefitted immeasurably from chiropractic care, ever since my first spinal check in 2010 by Dr. Kelvin Ng – fellow Singaporean, Sherman graduate, mentor, and now colleague. Experiencing these positive in changes in myself was what got me started on the journey toward a Doctor of Chiropractic career. Back in 2010 I was already a competitive triathlete and marathoner, but not yet at the national level. Dr. Ng was invited to speak at an athlete symposium organized by a bicycle shop that I was sponsored by. He gave a simple message about how specific chiropractic care could potentially help athletes of all levels function better. The message was not about fixing any pain, but a holistic means of gaining a competitive edge. My triathlete teammate and I became patients just to give it a try.

 

I went in without expectations, but with each visit, I was soon impressed by the changes experienced. The greatest thing is that I have remained free of overtraining injuries from 2010 until today, never being sidelined from my training routine for more than a day. I recover quickly from grueling workouts and races, so my body can adapt in time before the next one. My running form has become more naturally efficient.

 

I was blessed to finally make the national team, competing at the 2013 and 2015 Southeast Asian Games Marathon – both of which were while I was still studying at Sherman College in the USA! My marathon personal best improved from 2h51m in 2009 to 2h32m in 2015. Interestingly, my mental clarity also increased – not only did my grades in undergraduate (and subsequently doctorate) studies improve, but so did my focus during training and races. Thank you, chiropractic!

 

What is it like to be in practice and how did Sherman College help you prepare for it?

I have loved every day of chiropractic practice in Singapore since 2016! It is an honor working alongside mentor Kelvin Ng, D.C., ’09, at Family Health Chiropractic Clinic as well. My daily run training (sometimes twice daily) is still ongoing outside the practice, so I can relate to my patients who exercise too. I feel like each patient has their own unique story being written when they get checked, so I am glad that chiropractic care forms part of that story, too, for better health outcomes.

 

Sherman College instilled in me the philosophy, science, and art of chiropractic. With a solid philosophy, we keep our chiropractic message in the clinic clear, with our focus on locating, analyzing, and correcting vertebral subluxations. With instructors that taught us to refine our techniques, we were already proficient as Sherman interns even before graduation. The tight-knit Sherman culture was something I appreciate even now, as it was my family in the USA, continents away from my Singapore hometown. As such, we take care of our practice members as if they were own our family members too.

 

What is one of the most important lessons you have learned through chiropractic?

Find your “why” in life (credit to Chair of the Business Department Brian Dooley, D.C., ’05, A.C.P., for this concept). My “why” is to fulfill all the athletic and health potential God has blessed me with, and likewise fulfill the health potential of the community by checking spines for nervous system interference.

 

 

 

Why is it important for athletes to be under chiropractic care?

Athletes and dancers, from recreational to high-performing individuals, cannot afford to be sidelined by training injuries. Unfortunately, the incidence rate is high, so injuries may be perceived as common. However, I strongly believe training injuries do not have to be part and parcel of being an athlete, contrary to popular belief.

An example of a common overuse injury in runners would be plantar fasciitis; those who experience this know how long and frustrating the recovery process can be. Even when one physically recovers from the injury, the mental scars may remain for fear of it flaring up again. But what if the root source of that injury was because of some spinal imbalance?

We have to appreciate that the body is all connected, so a vertebral subluxation (spinal misalignment causing nerve interference) may potentially cause tension on one side of the musculoskeletal chain and result leg length imbalance. Imagine the potential for injury even with the tiniest of leg imbalances, especially when running or jumping when the shock from the ground moves up the body. It is vital to look into the root cause rather than just treat symptoms.

Because chiropractic is a holistic profession, athletes can potentially also have other non-musculoskeletal health aspects looked into. It is not uncommon that athletes often deal with issues such as brain fog, headaches, digestive issues, or even anxiety. Our role is to find those potential connections and improve overall function.

What are the challenges and rewards of working with athletes?

It is rewarding to see athletes get better with gentle and conservative chiropractic care. We have had extreme cases of athletes hardly able to move (let alone do any sport), then ease back into their training routine and even to record-breaking ways. More importantly, I love that they can continue to train consistently with regular spine checks to maintain their tip-top shape, sorting out any subtle imbalances before they develop into an injury.

The challenge of working with driven athletes is that sometimes they tend to ignore their symptoms, taking them in their stride and just accepting them as normal, while continuing to push their bodies to the limit. I have taken care of several that were still rigorously training, yet had difficulty with activities of daily living like wearing their shoes. Some of our athlete patients also have the “quick fix” mentality with the desire to fully jump back into the game within just a short time span. These challenges present opportunities for us to educate the community to change their worldview and preconceived notions about chiropractic care.