Dr. Craig Couillard, D.C., CMT, CCSP®, ICCSP, CSCS, CES and PES has a string of titles behind his name so impressive, it’s attracted the notice of world-class athletes.
In addition to owning the Lake Marion Chiropractic Center in Minnesota, Couillard works with numerous competitive sports teams and Olympic teams, including USA Hockey, USA Swimming and USA Gymnastics.
The opportunity to treat Olympic athletes representing different sports is only granted to a select few chiropractors in the country and Couillard traveled to Italy last summer with these international rock stars.
From small beginnings to a big-time sports career
His beginnings, however, weren’t quite as prestigious. When Couillard was in elementary school, he experienced devastating migraine headaches that affected his vision and daily functioning. Doctors thought he had a brain tumor but nothing showed up on tests. He was prescribed powerful psychotic medication, causing terrible nightmares and insomnia.
After watching him suffer, his parents decided they couldn’t continue along the same path. They sought help through chiropractic care, and Couillard was diagnosed with severe scoliosis and neck issues. After adjustments and massage, he says he was “fixed” in just a few months.
“Wanting to work in health and healing came from my own early experiences,” Couillard says. I thought those chiropractors that helped me were so cool, I wanted to be one. I never told anyone what my career goals were. Most people thought I’d be a deadbeat gas station attendant,” he jokes.
Couillard became a sports junkie in junior and senior high school, and he couldn’t get enough of watching the Olympics on television. But in high school, he realized he didn’t have the capacity to be an elite athlete, so he decided to work with them instead.
A model of success
The combination of chiropractic, physical rehabilitation, advanced soft tissue techniques and clinical nutrition is the key to successful outcomes in Couillard’s book. He uses the trusted exercise model of NASM to assess, diagnose and treat every single patient he works with.
“Getting my Corrective Exercise Specialization (CES) and Performance Enhancement Specialization (PES) in 2010 from NASM opened my eyes to see things from a bigger picture. Chiropractors are trained to assess joints and correct for that, but when I went through the CES model, I was even better at just watching someone walk down the hallway and picking up on what was wrong with them. It really sharpened my ability to assess and diagnose, and now I’m more accurate. My understanding of anatomy is much better.”
Couillard gives the example of someone with low back pain. “If I see their foot turning out, I’ll now go and fix the ankle along with the back and get better outcomes.”
“Using the CES and PES Specializations together has given me a broader understanding of the body and all the tools I can use on an individual to help them become a better athlete and turn in a better performance,” he explains.
Opting to use NASM’s OPT™ model
One of the biggest reasons Couillard chose NASM over other certifiers was because of their Optimum Performance Training™ (OPT™) model. He says it was organized, research-based and made sense. “If you apply these programs they way they ought to be, getting results is easy,” he says.
Couillard says it’s not uncommon for Olympic swimmers to get out of the water and tell him something’s wrong. “They say, ‘What can you do in 10 minutes because I have to swim again?’ My job is to fix the problem and prepare those athletes to win Gold medals.”
Staying in the game through lifelong learning
Couillard says he considers himself a lifelong learner and NASM helps him keep up with changes in the field. “Being an elite sports chiropractor takes a lot of time and money, but teaching for NASM keeps me on top of my game,” he says. “I have to find research articles to back up what I’m saying and I have to stay abreast of the latest studies and the newest gadgets. I’m a stickler for functional anatomy and am continually assessing my own. It’s driven me to be better in so many ways.”
Couillard’s specializations have opened his eyes to many different things. He says he’s a better doctor, a better personal trainer and has a better life because of them. “I’m very blessed and grateful that I have as many opportunities as I do, and I’m privileged to teach for NASM and work for professional sports teams and elite athletes.”
Working on the business while working in it
For those looking to become Certified Personal Trainers, Couillard has this advice: create a posse. “You’re in the sales business. You need to get clients. Create a referral network with a go-to chiropractor, physical therapist, medical doctor, surgeon and dentist. They’ll refer clients back to you to stay healthy.”
A resume in alignment with a commitment to excellence
Couillard has made the list of the Minnesota Best Chiropractors, published by the Minnesota Monthly magazine for the past three consecutive years. In 2016, he was recognized as one of the “10 Best Chiropractors in Minnesota by the American Institute of Chiropractors for patient satisfaction.
In addition to a full time practice, Couillard is an associate clinical faculty member and a continuing education faculty member at Northwestern Health Sciences University. In 2014, he was the recipient of the Minnesota Chiropractic Association Outstanding Educator Award.
He and his wife Angela live in Lakeville, Minnesota with their daughters Sydney and Emme.