How this Canadian chiropractor overcame nagging back pain and became a national champion

Date:  May 1, 2023


Dr. Derek Luu at a recent competition

Canadian chiropractor and powerlifter Dr. Derick Luu battled through injuries and faced strong competition for seven years. Now finally, he holds the title of national champion.

But it didn’t come easily. Over the years, he was struck with various back, hip, and shoulder injuries from powerlifting (squatting, bench pressing, and deadlifting a weighted barbell); he contemplated never competing again and almost gave up on his goal of winning a national title to earn a place on Team Canada and compete at a World Powerlifting Championship. It was hard finding the right rehabilitation professional to aid him through injuries holding him back.

“I felt frustrated, hopeless, and angry while seeing rehab professionals as a patient myself. Despite what I would try or how many people I’d see, nothing seemed to work in the long term,” he shared.

However, with patience and perseverance he eventually found the right support, a chiropractor who combined principles of both rehabilitation and strength training into a treatment plan – a method that also inspired his practice.

Much of Luu’s doubts about his powerlifting goals changed earlier this year after he won his category at the Canadian Nationals and securing a place Team Canada to attend the IPF World Powerlifting Championship in Malta this June.

Behind the scenes of this national champion, Luu is the owner of Ikigai Rehab, an online telehealth rehab service geared towards powerlifters who are dealing with MSK pain and injuries. He is also currently completing his master’s degree in rehabilitation science from McMaster University, focusing on the relationship between chiropractic care and complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). Luu explains that there is a knowledge gap in the literature about CRPS and his goal is to improve the knowledge that chiropractors have about managing it so that they may be able to provide better quality evidence-informed care to people living with CRPS. 

“Powerlifting has made me a better chiropractor. I have experienced a lot of injuries that had kept me from competing for a number of years and throughout that, I was able to learn from my adversity by relentlessly pursuing further education and courses in aspects of clinical care such as rehabilitation, programming and patient communication,” shared Luu. “I am also able to sympathize with patients on a deeper level when they are going through pain and injuries and will sometimes share my story so that they can feel hopeful.”

He has always wanted to help people who are dealing with pain and injuries, especially since he knows how frustrating and hopeless it can feel. Luu’s goal as a chiropractor is to empower his patients and instill hope – something he learned firsthand. At one point, he was in so much pain from powerlifting training that it felt more of a burden than a passion, and he decided to leave the sport.

“I thought I would never return again.”

After he graduated and started practicing professionally as a chiropractor in 2021, he found his way back to the powerlifting community, and slowly navigated through his continuous injuries with the support of his coach, gym friends, and his personal rehabilitation training. Like in powerlifting, Luu believes that dealing with pain and injuries is also a test of mental fortitude.

“Both require patience, trial and error, and belief in oneself. One treatment or rehabilitation method that will help one person may not help another person with the same issue. Just like in powerlifting, it will take trial and error in figuring out the right program and strategies that make you stronger. Lastly, belief in oneself is what I find to be the most important factor in a patient’s success when dealing with pain as well as my own journey with injuries in powerlifting. The ability to believe in oneself even in the face of adversity is what I believe makes a difference in those who succeed in whatever endeavor they decide to pursue from those who don’t.”

Even though he achieved his goal of becoming a national champion, his powerlifting journey continues to unfold. Please join the CCA in cheering on Dr. Derick Luu at the upcoming Worlds Powerlifting Championship in Malta this June!

By Simone Lai

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