Whether you are a professional, college, or high school athlete (or maybe just a weekend warrior), you know that injuries can happen when you least expect it. Sometimes, it’s a traumatic injury because your body was pushed beyond its limit and sometimes, the injury comes from simple overuse. And every athlete wants to get back on the field, court, or track as quickly as possible.
Many athletes have discovered that acupuncture is an ideal treatment to augment recovery, speed up healing, and reduce pain. Acupuncture basically works like this. When you suffer an injury, the flow of energy (also known as Qi) to and from the area becomes disrupted which causes pain and stagnation. Blood circulation can also be limited which can extend healing times, prolong swelling and bruising, which all combine to increased use of pain medications.
Acupuncture is used to reestablish the flow of Qi, or energy, to the injured area. This all helps to increase circulation, blood flow and to remove cellular waste from the injury. Your acupuncturist might also add herbal medicine to your acupuncture treatments to help alleviate pain. Herbs used for injuries can be applied topically or taken internally, depending on the type of injury sustained.
According to the Pacific College of Health and Science, “Specific acupuncture styles and techniques were developed to stop pain and dramatically increase recovery time. This tradition continues today, and its use has expanded into competitive athletics that result in similar injuries. Pain is one of the most common complaints in sports injuries followed by reduced function. The whole approach of Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture to the treatment of pain and reduced function is to see it as a disorder in the body’s natural state. The treatment is geared toward rectifying the disorder and restoring internal harmony.”
“Recent studies show that acupuncture effectively treats sports injuries such as strains, sprains, neck, shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip, knee and ankle pain, swollen muscles and shin splints. In addition to treating the injury, Acupuncture can also improve performance and give athletes a competitive edge.”
Because of this “competitive edge,” many professional sports teams have acupuncturists on staff to help shorten healing time and resolve overuse injuries (i.e., throwing/pitching, tennis elbow/shoulder, track and field injuries, etc.). However, you don’t have to be a competitive athlete to benefit from regular acupuncture treatments.
A 2015 study from Zhengzhou University examined the effects of Traditional Chinese Medicine style acupuncture and herbal treatments on amateur and professional athletes suffering from motor impairments due to physical training. The study ultimately found that the “total effective rate for the acupuncture only group was 70% and the herbal medicine group achieved a 62% effective rate.” Not bad results at all. However, the group receiving both acupuncture and herbal medicine achieved a total effective rate of just more than 84%. The researchers concluded that “acupuncture combined with herbs is highly effective for the treatment of physical activity induced motility impairments. The combined therapeutic approach is more effective than either treatment modality as a standalone procedure.”
If you are training for a triathlon or marathon, or you are a regular at the tennis courts or the golf course, you might want to consider regular acupuncture treatments to keep those injuries at bay. Talk to your acupuncturist about different preventative measures to stop injuries before they start or talk to them about a recovery plan if you have already had an acute traumatic injury.