The Role of Acupuncture in Sports Injuries and Athletic Performance
Sports injuries are most often caused by trauma (from a fall or blow) or overuse/misuse of certain muscles and the neighboring structures, including ligaments and tendons. The acupuncturist commonly sees sports injuries such as pulled muscles, strains, sprains, shin splints, Achilles tendonitis and various manifestations of inflammation and pain that can keep the injured athlete out of the game.
Acupuncture is used effectively to reduce the pain and inflammation of sports injuries. It has also been shown to increase range of motion and accelerate healing time. Acupuncture can be employed at any stage of an injury: to prevent, to treat acute pain, swelling and spasms, and to address conditions that make athletes vulnerable to re-injury. Studies have shown that acupuncture increases blood circulation to specific areas of the body, which not only promotes healing of sports injuries but could also boost athletic performance.
A study conducted at the Beijing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine in which athletes received acupuncture after running three miles revealed quicker heart rate recovery than those in the control group.
The American Journal of Acupuncture published a study that examined the effects of acupuncture on anaerobic threshold and work capacity during exercise. Researchers found that those who received acupuncture not only had lower heart rates, but had higher maximal exercise capacity and were able to handle greater workloads at the onset of blood lactate accumulation (OBLA) than those in the placebo group.
The January 2008 issue of the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine observed the effects of acupuncture on cyclists. Participants were divided into three groups that either received acupuncture, sham acupuncture or no acupuncture prior to periods of high-intensity cycling. The study revealed that the group who received acupuncture that adhered to the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine had a higher performance scores and rode faster than their counterparts.
The nicer Spring weather here in Philadelphia lends itself to more outdoor activities. If preexisting or new injuries are hindering your training or recreational goals, acupuncture and Chinese medicine should be considered a viable option for a speedy recovery.