Acupuncture & Sports

Today’s post continues on our post a few weeks ago about acupuncture for muscle pain. Specifically, today we’re going to look at acupuncture as part of sports medicine.

Sports medicine is organized entirely around the athlete’s training or competition. Broadly speaking, there is pre-event care, which focuses on ensuring muscles are loose, flexible, and energized, and there is post-event care, which focuses on removal of toxic metabolites and any necessary rehabilitation.

By default acupuncture is more suited to post-event care because of its effects on the nervous system of the body. Acupuncture activates the parasympathetic nervous system – the areas of the brain responsible for digestion, rest, and promotion of healing. It calms the body down and encourages sleep. These effects are more pronounced the longer needles are inserted and a patient lies on the table. So when any patient goes to an acupuncturist, these are the effects they can expect to feel.

But patients who are serious athletes or who are going to face a full day may not want these particular effects. If you’re an athlete looking for pre-event care – something that limbers your body up – then this is something that you need to discuss specifically with your acupuncturist. An acupuncturist who knows that this is what you’re looking for will adjust their treatment appropriately, selecting points that help release chronically tight muscles or trigger points, or help to channel pre-competition anxiety into alertness. Also most appropriately, they will avoid having a patient stay with needles on the table for a long time to avoid activating the parasympathetic nervous system. This helps keeps an athlete limber and ready for competition while still getting the benefits of treatment.

Now concerning rehabilitation, for acute & chronic muscle pain we covered treatment in our earlier post, so I won’t go over that again. For tendon or ligament sprains or partial tears, acupuncture can still be useful. Treatment here can promote healing, reduce inflammation and swelling, and may prevent the need for surgery for injuries where its use is considered. However, patients using acupuncture for rehabilitation should know that treatment must be regular and that they should cut back on their use of an injured area to allow the body to heal.

With so many different applications, acupuncture is growing in the sports medicine field. If you have been looking for a treatment to help you excel at your sport, or simply help you keep up with your busy life, consider acupuncture as your treatment of choice. You will be pleasantly surprised.