Get Your Game On with Acupunctureby Shawna Snyder, L.Ac., Dipl. OM on 02/11/16
Acupuncture Increases Recovery Rate from Injuries
Anyone who exercises challenges their body to go beyond their comfort zone. This healthy stress we put on our body is what makes us stronger and healthier but sometimes we push ourselves too far and injury results. Professional athletes, especially, who surrender to the demands of competition exercise excessively or perhaps don’t rest long enough between sporting events and consequently have wear and tear of their joints and reoccurring soft tissue injuries. Soft tissue injuries include: muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia. In my acupuncture practice, I most commonly treat: muscle pull, neck pain, shoulder impingement, tennis elbow, lower back strain, groin gull, hamstring strain, runner's knee, shin splints, ankle sprain, Achilles tendonitis and arch foot pain. Many of these are due to trauma, overuse and re-injury, though knowing how to heal injuries completely, can help you avoid a long healing process.
Your Body’s Response to Injury
At the moment you realize your body has taken the brunt of physical force resulting in tissue damage, your body is calling upon its healing forces mainly: white blood cells and increased blood flow. Pain in the affected area, apart from the actual injury is also due to swelling and inflammation. Inflammation is the body’s healthy response to infection, tissue damage or both. By sending increased amounts of white blood cells to the injured area, the body is better able to repair any damage. Without the inflammation process, injuries would not heal. But with that inflammation come reduced range of motion and discomfort but it’s your body’s way of telling you to stop overexerting so you can heal.
Acupuncture Supports Your Body in Healing
This practice has helped billions of people over 5,000 years and it is a safe, natural, drug-free and an effective therapy. The goal of this dynamic and integrated health care system is to activate the natural, self-healing abilities of the body by engaging the body’s own natural healing ability to increase blood circulation which helps nourish damaged tissue and remove toxin build. Acupuncture can be used to help decrease swelling, spasms, inflammation and pain as well as increase range of motion all while promoting the healing process. The focus is not only to treat the injury but also to treat any underlying conditions that may predispose an individual to injuries. This is especially important when treating chronic or recurrent injuries that interfere with life activities or athletic performance. Fortunately, acupuncture can be used during any of the phases of injury and can be used to complement other modalities (physical therapy, massage, chiropractic, etc.) that you may be using to help heal. Getting acupuncture before your other healthcare appointments (such as physical therapy or massage) allows the other practitioners to work more effectively with your body.
• A study conducted at the Beijing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine involved athletes running 5,000 meters, and then sitting for acupuncture treatments before they had a chance to catch their breath. The heart rates of the athletes who received the treatments recovered more quickly than those in the control group.
• A study published in the American Journal of Acupuncture found that healthy young men who had a acupuncture could exercise longer and had less blood lactate build up. The individuals that received acupuncture also had lower heart rates.
• A study published in the January, 2008 issue of the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine examined the effects of acupuncture on cyclists. The group that received acupuncture had a higher intensity work out score and they completed their cycling tests at a higher acceleration than the others.
• A 2008 study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine discovered that participants who received acupuncture for muscle soreness 24 and 48 hours after they exercised to exhaustion reported significantly less pain than those who did not receive the treatment.
Cutting Edge Athletes
Athletes respond to acupuncture very well and because of their great physical condition, they can sometimes feel like they are healing overnight - making the results seem like magic. The 2010 Winter Olympics had an acupuncturist on their staff as do many professional sport teams. Athletes using acupuncture during their professional careers include: Joe Montana, Michael Strahan, Dwayne Wade, Shaquille O’Neal, Jason Kidd, Vladimir Radmonovic, Fred Couples, Gary Player, Kevin Johnson, Steve Nash, Charles Barkley, Hot Rod Williams, Jeff Hornacek and Grant Hill, NFL quarterback Matt Hasselbeck; Hockey superstar Jaromir Jagr; Olympic high-jumper Amy Acuff; Olympic Gold Gymnast Nastia Liukin
What Can You Do Between Acupuncture Appointments?
• Self-massage and stretching: Movement keeps blood moving through an injured area which keeps the flow of nutrients to the injured tissue.
• Heat vs. Cold: Use cold when the pain is sharp, like right after it happens. An ice pack works wonders in helping to prevent swelling and relieve pain. After a few days (or if it becomes a chronic site of discomfort), heat should be applied to encourage blood flow to nourish the damaged tissues.
• Arnica, turmeric, ginger and cayenne are excellent remedies that can help promote circulation, reduce swelling and bruising. Talk to your practitioner about use.
Acupuncture is effective in healing injuries but it also benefits the entire body. It improves sleep so your body can replenish its reserves. It eases stress and anxiety-no need to stress before the big game! And it strengthens your immune system-don’t lose out on precious training. It Increases awareness. Many people find that acupuncture helps them tune into their bodies, minds and emotions at deeper, subtler levels. Being mindful of yourself and your surroundings is a winning tool that is beneficial on and off the playing field.
With a little care, many soft tissue injury can be completely healed in a few days to a few weeks. Be careful though, just because an injury feels better doesn’t mean that it is fully healed, so give it an extra week or two. You can use that time to slowly build up strength in the area to help prevent future injuries which could take a lot longer to heal.
The Zen of Performance
Acupuncture can be part of comprehensive approach for athletes so they can cultivate and achieve balance between the mind-body-spirit in to promote optimal sports performance. Acupuncture can naturally boosts athletes’ energy levels, aid in post-workout recovery, and improve overall performance levels. Athletes who incorporate acupuncture as part of their regular training regimens notice better results and fewer injuries.