Dr. Jeff Spencer is a former champion cyclist who competed on the 1972 United States Olympic Team as a sprint cyclist and currently serves as chiropractor for the United States Postal Service Professional Cycling Team. A 1975 graduate of the University of Southern California (USC), Dr. Spencer graduated summa cum laude from Cleveland Chiropractic College at Los Angeles in 1988. He then set up a “regular” office in Montrose, CA, then Grants Pass, OR, and, finally, Scottsdale, AZ, where he practiced for 12 years, until a debilitating case of dental mercury amalgam poisoning made it impossible for him to keep regular office hours.
What to do?
Since his practice had a heavy sports medicine clientele, he went mobile. That’s right! He hit the highway, seeing his patients on the road, and he’s been there ever since.
His clients include Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods, Troy Glaus, Kendall Gill, Tara Daketis and Chad Reed.
In an interview with The American Chiropractor (TAC), Dr. Jeff Spencer shares his unique experience as a sports chiropractor on the road, and the winning philosophy that has made all the difference!
TAC: What influenced you to become a chiropractor?
Spencer: When competing as a world-class athlete, I never felt that my pre-competition, injury prevention and injury management strategies were sufficient enough to allow me to reach my full potential. After graduating from USC, I became a fitness consultant to athletes and found they echoed the same concerns, so I decided to become a licensed health care provider to learn the skills needed to address the comprehensive needs of the athlete. I chose chiropractic because it afforded great flexibility in assessment and treatment protocols and allowed me to work with my hands.
TAC: What kind of practice do you have?
Spencer: I presently practice solely in the professional athletic world. Athletes come to me; I go to them. I spend considerable time traveling to competitions. My clinical objectives are to prepare the athlete for top competitive performances, limit their risk of injuries, minimize injury downtime and extend their careers. I’m not limited by time or resources. My clients contract me to do whatever’s necessary to get the job done.
TAC: What techniques do you use?
Spencer: Identifying the mechanical, biochemical and energetic needs of my clients is my first priority. I then select the appropriate techniques, modalities and nutrition to produce the desired clinical outcome with the least time and effort. My principle tools are diversified and non-force full body adjusting, Erchonia cold laser and kinesiotaping techniques. In addition, I use frequency specific microcurrent (FSM), autonomic response testing (ART), Scenar, earthing, the “Stick”, herbs, nutiritional supplements, homeopathics and active rehabilitation exercises. I’m super aggressive. I’m very dedicated to learning leading edge concepts. If there’s a better way to do something, I’m first in line to want to learn it. I’m always scanning the landscape for new things.
TAC: Have you ever worked in a “regular” clinic setting? If so, how did you “go mobile”?
Spencer: I held regular clinic office hours for 12 years before going mobile. The switch came as the result of my having a very seriously debilitation case of mercury poisoning from my dental mercury-silver fillings. While poisoned, I was physically incapable of maintaining regular office hours—let alone doing anything else. I could barely function.
However, the silver lining from the mercury poisoning was that I spent two years researching and doing everything I could to recover from a chronic illness and, in the process, learned an extra, extremely important dimension about acquiring and maintaining ultimate health and fitness—something every athlete needs, yet few practitioners have clinical knowledge of.
TAC: Do you see a lot of need for more “mobile” sports chiropractors like yourself?
Spencer: Absolutely. Top athletes are busy, have very little travel flexibility, know they need this added dimension and have the resources to acquire it. The sky’s the limit on what’s possible. We’re only limited by our creativity and clinical skill.
TAC: What would you recommend chiropractors do if they’re interested in being a sports chiropractor like yourself?
Spencer: Become the best clinician possible and develop a wide diversity of skills to address the comprehensive needs of the athlete; master manual techniques, energetic modalities and nutritional supplements. It’s also critical to understand the athletic experience and become a representative of it by being an athlete yourself. Give presentations about what you do and why you’re different from other healthcare providers. Give people a reason to come to you. If you’re just like every other chiropractor, there’s no reason to come.
TAC: How is your income level now in comparison to working a “steady” job in the same clinic every day?
Spencer: The gross is easily three times what it was in a “stationary” practice, with the added bonus of absolutely no overhead. There’s lots of room for exploration, creativity and innovation that comes with the freedom of being mobile.
TAC: Tell us about your involvement with The Tour de France.
Spencer: I’ve done all six of Lance Armstrong’s Tour victories with him. During the Tour, I take care of the entire nine-rider team. My job is to prepare the riders’ bodies for each day’s stage, prevent injuries, resolve injuries when they do happen, and accelerate post competition recoveries. It’s a 24-hour a day job to get it all done. Common problems seen include tendonitis, abrasions, lacerations, muscle tears, muscle inhibition, joint fixations/trauma, postural strain, hematomas, and everything else that pertains to the neuromuscular system. It’s awesome to have so much proactive and treatment diversity compressed into three weeks. To manage these conditions, I do a lot of adjusting, kinesiotaping, Erchonia lasering and energetic modality procedures. It’s awesome.
TAC: How can the things you’ve learned practicing on the road be incorporated into other doctors’ practices to equip them to achieve better results for their own patients?
Spencer: The body’s the body, whether you’re an athlete or non-athlete; and the same principles of prevention, remediation and recovery apply to both athletes and non-athletes alike. There’s absolutely no difference. All things done in the athletic world should be incorporated into regular clinical practice. The most important thing for the average patient is to get regular pro-active care and see someone immediately when a problem arises. Waiting for care can lead to improper healing and secondary problems. To get and stay healthy, people have got to change the way they look at health.
TAC: With the traveling you do for your job, what tendencies do you see for the future of chiropractic and health care in general?
Spencer: The future of chiropractic will be determined by how effectively the profession defines its scope of practice. The literature clearly demonstrates that the body has mechanical, biochemical, nutritional and energetic needs that, when appropriately met, create consistent, optimal physical performances, both in tasks of daily living and on the playing field. In my experience, the body doesn’t care about what we think its needs are. It only cares if we can give it what it needs to build and maintain itself. If we fail to provide the body with what it needs to repair and maintain itself , regardless of our intention and belief, it will never be able to obtain optimal health or achieve top performances.
Today’s health consumer knows there’s more to health than just receiving a memorized treatment algorithm for a given diagnosis. 300 million Americans all need regular proactive and remedial chiropractic care. Chiropractic’s scope of practice and clinical competency will determine how successfully we provide the extraordinary health care experience for the consumer that enables them to embrace life to its fullest, and our profession to grow.
TAC: Do you notice chiropractic being treated differently in different places in the US? In the world?
Spencer: There is certainly a regional difference. You see it more in the athletic and medical institutions than in individual athletes and patients. American teams and health care establishments, by nature, are slow to embrace innovation, and there’s a distinct hierarchy among the health care providers that often slows the dialogue and implementation for groundbreaking technologies. In my experience, it can easily take a decade or more for important innovations to make it onto the radar, if ever. The loser in this is, unfortunately, the patient.
In Europe, innovation is more rapidly embraced. In the Tour de France, I have complete freedom to do whatever I want and to use a variety of very new innovations that have passed the acid test, both clinically and scientifically, yet very few people know anything about them. It’s the ultimate clinic!
TAC: Do you have any secrets to your success in practice? In life?
Spencer: Yes. Don’t let the fear of thinking you don’t know enough get in the way of implementing new clinical procedures. Learn as you go. No truly masterful, happy, successful practitioner ever feels “they’ve arrived.” Follow your path of inquiry. Make your decisions on what you stand to gain, not what you stand to lose. Trust your clinical instincts. Never get too comfortable with what you know. Once you think you’ve arrived, stagnation sets in, enthusiasm drops and clinical performance declines. Keep learning and experimenting. It’ll keep you fresh and young at heart.
TAC: Do you have any final words or advice for your readers?
Spencer: Create the practice of your dreams by doing what Lance does: Seek the council of trusted people, listen to what they have to say, decide what you want to do and do it. There are no rules. Be creative. Find a way to make what you want to do work. Don’t let the fear of failure get in the way. Don’t try to control things too much. Look for the opportunity in the moment and change course when there’s a better way. Make spontaneity a daily requirement.
Our sincere thanks to Dr. Spencer! He may be reached by email at [email protected].