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Athletes & Acupuncture

Science shows that athletes can improve their performance and recovery time by regularly doing acupuncture. 

The Science Behind Acupuncture

The human body has over 2000 meridian points throughout the body. The Chinese discovered and mapped out these points on the body thousands of year30 ago. The acupuncture points have electrical properties that affect chemical neurotransmitters in the body.

There is a generally accepted understanding of the routes the body uses to direct fluid flow. Acupuncturists can get better responses from some points on the body better than others by stimulating blood circulation via needle removal.

“For instance - a point in the ankle can stop nosebleeds. A point on the other side of the ankle can help neck and upper back pain,”  said Peter Dorsher, M.D. Mayo Clinic Minute

There is no surgery, or prescription drugs used in the administering of the treatment. A paper from Utah State University found that “acupuncture has been proven legal and safe,with few major side effects when administered correctly” and “several trials also concluded that acupuncture is capable of increasing range of motion.”

Acupuncture: Modern Day Applications for Athletes

Acupuncture may be rooted in a distant past, but its applications have been used in the NBA, NFL, and the 2016 Rio Olympics. Today this ancient remedy is used as a regenerative therapy. It works on a holistic level as an alternative or complement to Western medicine to restore the body's natural state of balance.

A growing number of athletes are turning to this natural treatment to address swelling, inflammation, muscle tension, pain, and even to boost performance and recovery. Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten uses acupuncture. Witten lauds Tom Brady and his use of dry-needling, an acupuncture-like treatment designed to soothe pain in specific areas of the body.

The benefits of acupuncture may be especially helpful for runners who are putting a lot of stress and mileage on their bodies. Read more here.

When coupled with physical therapy, cupping can improve pain, strength, range of motion, strength, and even overall endurance. Indeed, a paper from Utah State University, which looked at a literature review of 30 articles on the subject found that “the greatest increases in mobility were seen when acupuncture was combined with a physical therapy exercise program.

Common Mistakes Athletes Make After Getting Acupuncture

In the hands of an expert, acupuncture has minimal risks for the patient. However there are a few key issues to keep in mind.

  1. Using the initial burst of energy to hit the gym too early. Sometimes it's best to rest.
  2. Make sure all the needles have been removed before you get dressed at the end of the acupuncture treatment.
  3. Thinking one session will fix everything. Multiple sessions are needed to train your body’s muscle memory and neural pathways to respond to the treatment.
  4. Quitting too early. As with any exercise or lifestyle change program most people expect instantaneous results. If you feel it working, chances are your body is adequately responding to the mental re-wiring taking place along the meridian points and healthy pathways. Re-training of the brain is possible (due to plasticity) but the process of mental hardwiring takes time.

Acupuncture Licenses are Earned, not Given

They say respect is earned, not given. We take that to mean that professional success in any endeavor is needed before one can criticize or leave constructive feedback. Part of Sandy’s story for wanting to get into acupuncture was to aid the endurance runners, swimmers, and elite athletes that came to her with pain. She didn’t want to offer them something that would ameliorate for the short term, but make them dependent in the long term.

Did you know that 10,000 acupuncturists in the United States? The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) has certified about 9,000 practitioners who have met national standards - consisting of a training 220 hours in length.

Acupuncture carries with it a myriad of benefits for sports players and endurance athletes. Read more about Sandy to see if acupuncture (or cupping) is right for your sport or exercise program.

Effect of acupuncture on Hegu (LI4) by infrared thermography