ND Alumni Brings a Diverse Tool Kit to Sports Medicine

Geoff Lecovin, ND, LAc ('94), MS, DC, CSCS, CISSN

Naturopathic doctors have a diverse set of healing tools at their disposal — it's one of the hallmarks of a naturopathic education. Few doctors demonstrate this as well as alumni Geoff Lecovin, ND, LAc ('94), MS, DC, CSCS, CISSN.

Let's unpack those acronyms: Dr. Lecovin is a chiropractor, naturopathic physician, acupuncturist and certified strength and conditioning specialist at Evergreen Integrative Medicine in Bellevue, Washington. He uses trigger-point acupuncture, soft-tissue release, joint manipulation, corrective exercise and nutrition to treat musculoskeletal pain and sports injuries. He also uses exercise and nutrition for weight management and athletic performance enhancement.

Dr. Lecovin studied naturopathic medicine and acupuncture at Bastyr after earning chiropractic and nutrition degrees. He spoke to us about how those therapies fit together.

You have a lot of training in different healing modalities. Tell us about the different therapies that you use and how they affect what you can do for patients.

My emphasis is physical medicine, so my biggest tools are my hands. I use them for soft-tissue manipulation, joint manipulation and physical therapies. I see a lot of advanced athletes who are built for power but not stability, which can set them up for injuries or chronic pain.

The first step is always assessment. Conventional medical school focuses on structure rather than function. So if there's pain in the lower back, they would look at the lower back. A functional assessment looks for movement patterns and regional interdependence. An area expressing pain might be compensating and not be the source of the problem.

For example, a patient's lower back pain might be due to tight hip flexors and weak hip extensors. A functional movement screen — such as an overhead squat assessment — helps me determine which muscles are tight, which are weak and which joints are affected. Then I can develop a home exercise plan, which might involve myofascial release with foam rollers, static stretching and exercises.

How did you decide to train in those different therapies?

It was a process of discovery. I went to chiropractic college, then I realized I had a passion for nutrition, so I went to school for that. Then my dad sent me an article about a doctor in Vancouver, B.C., who was doing something called intramuscular stimulation, or dry-needling. It was a form of acupuncture based on Western nervous-system concepts. I met this doctor and discovered this was something I really wanted to do. It sounded like a good complement to chiropractic therapy.

Did that lead you to Bastyr?

Yes. When I learned that you could practice manipulation, nutrition and acupuncture all under a naturopathic license, I called up Bastyr. They gave me advanced standing as a chiropractor. I went for an interview and got accepted for the naturopathic medicine and acupuncture programs. This was in 1992 — the school was in a small elementary school then. We didn't have any of the great technology they have now.

What are patients looking for these days from integrative medicine?

People don't just want to be given a pill for their pain. They want to learn what's wrong and have someone spend time explaining things to them. A few generations ago, patients didn't question doctors. But now patients are highly educated about their conditions. They want something that will address the cause of their pain, not just deal with their symptoms. It's a great change, I think.

You've been in practice for 17 years now. What have you learned about health?

I've learned to stick to the foundations of naturopathic medicine: good sleep, hygiene, stress management, limiting exposure to environmental toxins, exercise, a balanced diet and supplements when necessary. And I've learned to use a holistic assessment model. If someone comes in with pain, is there a nutritional cause? A biochemical cause? A structural cause? An emotional cause? A holistic model addresses all those aspects. That helps patients see improvements more quickly.