Updated: Mar 30, 2019
I have recently started working with a sports team to aid in injury management and general body support. I was often getting asked how Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine works and how it could help them with their performance on the field. Here are my top 5 answers with how Chinese Medicine can assist sports performance.
1. Promotes recovery
One interesting study (Zen-Pin Lin et al, 2009) has found acupuncture to significantly lower heart rate, oxygen consumption and blood lactic acid when compared with sham acupuncture and control groups at both 30 minute post exercise and 60 minute post exercise. Lower lactic acid = quicker recovery time.
2. Injury support
Unfortunately, injuries are common when playing sport. Twisted ankles, shin splints, and repetitive strain on specific joints is usually what I come across when treating athletes but I also see players who are recovering from sciatica, muscle strains, tendonitis in various locations of the body, dislocations and even broken bones. The goal of an acupuncture/massage/cupping treatment for injuries includes pain relief, inflammation control and accelerating repair time.
3. Assists in performance enhancement
There is some research to suggest that acupuncture may be effective for muscular power and strength enhancement. According to one paper (Ahmedov, S. 2010), several acupuncture sessions contribute to better muscular performance enhancement in resistance exercises compared with a single session.
4. Reduces pain and inflammation
There is also some research that shows acupuncture is associated with a greater degree of pain relief when compared with sham acupuncture and analgesic injections. Acupuncture has been found to activate a number of the body's own opioids thus promoting reduction in pain (Xiang, A et al).
5. It thinks outside the usual 'Box'
Maybe your performance hasn't been great lately because you are stressed, or not sleeping well. Acupuncture can help with a wide variety of conditions, and isn't just limited to muscular skeletal issues. Let you Acupuncturist know whats going on and see if they can help.
It doesn't matter whether you are an elite athlete or you just enjoy playing sport socially, acupuncture can be beneficial for a wide variety of issues.
And don't forget to stretch!
1. Zen-Pin Lin et al, Am. J. Chin. Med. 37, 471, 2009 "Effects of Acupuncture Stimulation on Recovery Ability of Male Elite Basketball Athletes"
2. Acupuncture.org.uk. (2018). Sports Injuries. [online] Available at: https://www.acupuncture.org.uk/a-to-z-of-conditions/a-to-z-of-conditions/sports-injuries.html [Accessed 28 May 2018].
3. Ahmedov, S. (2010). Ergogenic Effect of Acupuncture in Sport and Exercise: A Brief Review. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24(5), pp.1421-1427.
4. Xiang, A., Cheng, K., Xu, P., & Liu, S. (n.d.). The immediate analgesic effect of acupuncture for pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
5. Evidence Based Acupuncture. (2018). Acupuncture for Pain - An Evidence Based Review. [online] Available at: https://www.evidencebasedacupuncture.org/present-research/pain-2/#foot_loc_16603_18 [Accessed 28 May 2018].
Disclaimer: I am a registered Acupuncturist and this blog reflects my own personal opinions and research. The references used for this article have been chosen to reflect a particular view point. The above information should in no way be used as a means to self diagnose and it is my responsibility as a health practitioner to recommend that you seek out a professional who is legally qualified to diagnose your specific condition.