While acupuncture may seem like a new alternative modality for sports injuries it has in fact been a primary treatment in sports related injuries for centuries. Much of Chinese Medical first aid came from the Shaolin Monasteries where monks practiced Kung Fu as a type of “moving meditation.” As the monks became famous for their martial arts fighting prowess, it became fashionable to attack a Shaolin Monk when they came out of the monastery on their begging rounds, to show your fighting ability. The monks would reluctantly defend themselves. They would beat the attacker up, bring them back to the monastery, set their bones, and treat their sprains and strains and bruises in an attempt to lessen their karmic debt.
Today we frequently treat acute and chronic pain with painkillers allowing us to continue despite our body’s efforts to tell us to stop. Medications may help you to return to your sport but may often cost you the ability to perform long term. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine has proven itself to be a safe, effective alternative to not only relieve acute pain and injury but used regularly can help reduce or eliminate common and recurring injuries.
Sprains (ligament involvement) and strains (muscle of tissue) of the joint and surrounded tissue are the most common sports related injuries. Typical inflammatory response may include pain, swelling, reduced range of motion, redness and/or skin discoloration. Prolonged inflammation can cause scar tissue formation and may prevent regain of proper joint mobility. Because capillaries tend to open under needle treatment acupuncture improves the circulation of blood and thus can cleanse muscles of lactic acid — which produces the sensation of muscle soreness and fatigue — faster than the natural process would. Acupuncture treatment also has been found to increase the production of endorphins, a substance produced naturally in the body that increases the feeling of happiness and well-being. The effect of acupuncture on the central nervous system is well documented and shows how effectively it influences things like immune and inflammatory responses, blood flow, body temperature and blood pressure, just to name a few.
From a Chinese perspective pain is result of a stagnation of Qi and/or blood most frequently in sports due to traumatic injury or repetitive stress. The inflammatory response causes a slow down or blockage in the vital energies of the body such as blood, lymph, neurotransmitters, hormones, metabolic fluids etc… also known as Qi. The stagnation of Qi causes the body to function inefficiently and/or painfully and in sports result in subpar performance or if serious enough prohibit participation completely. Restoration of the flow of the vital energies of the body with the use of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can provide safe and effective relief of injury as well as give a competitive edge in overall performance. Strengthening the flow of Qi in the meridians not only repairs damage done but allows optimum nourishment to tendons, muscles, organs and bones.
Professional athletes are making regular acupuncture treatment part of their training regiman for the treatment and prevention of injury:
- Pittsburgh Penguins star Jaromir Jagr, who played for the Czech Republic in the Olympics in Nagano, used acupuncture to get over a groin injury last season.
- NBA guard Muggsy Bogues used it to relieve chronic knee pain
- Paul Kariya Captain of the Mighty Ducks of the NHL, who battled post-concussion syndrome for three months, credits twice-weekly acupuncture treatments for his recovery from headaches and dizziness.”
- New York Yankees pitcher A.J. Burnett suffered from a ruptured ligament in his thumb, a bone bruise, a stress fracture in his right foot, a right shoulder strain, and a host of other injuries that could derail a pitcher’s career. Burnett states, “I found that I responded really well to the acupuncture, how that treated my body and my nerves, and the release of stress.”
- Baltimore Ravens safety Will Demps regards acupuncture as a definite asset to his training. “In my extensive off-season workouts, I have noticed a difference in my balance and agility since receiving acupuncture,” Demps said. “I feel my muscles have been ‘turned on’ and are firing on all cylinders.”