Acupuncture for Athletes – the Best Way to Heal Injuries and Restore Balance
We all know the main principle of acupuncture – an insertion of tiny, sterile needles in the patient’s skin. It stimulates the flow of qi, vital body energy, and at the same time balances Yin and Yang (opposing but complementary forces). Qi flows through meridians; many acupuncture points are located on meridians. By stimulating them, acupuncturist provokes better healing, pain relief, and relaxation.
Athletes are prone to injuries and strained muscles due to repetitive use of specific body movements and strenuous exercise. Using acupuncture may help them by provoking a natural self-healing process.
Is acupuncture good for athletes? The answer is yes. It is the most suitable therapy for athletes because it offers a personalized, effective, and drug-free treatment. Acupuncture speeds up the healing process, prevents injuries, and enhances athletic performance.
Acupuncture is not banned by the sports authorities, unlike most other performance enchanting treatments. It is mainly because in acupuncture, you use your own body’s substances, not foreign ones.
Acupuncture for Athletes at Makari Wellness
Whether you are a professional or amateur athlete, trying the acupuncture treatment could be the best decision in your career. Avoiding medications that sometimes mask the symptoms, acupuncture will help you to increase strength and provide proper healing of your injury.
Here at Makari Wellness, we offer you the best natural solution for your problem. We customize the treatments for every athlete individually. Alongside Cupping, Moxibustion, Gua Sha, Chinese Herbal Medicine, and many other treatments, our goal is to improve your quality of life together with your athletic performance.
What Does Acupuncture do for Your Body?
Acupuncture as a part of Chinese medicine is most commonly used for treating pain and for relaxation. It stimulates natural pain killers‘ production and improves circulation in the inflamed area better than conventional therapies. It has no restrictions on age, so people of all ages and physical forms can use it.
Benefits of Acupuncture for Athletes
As we said in the previous part, there are many benefits of acupuncture for athletes. Some of them include:
- Reducing pain – acupuncture helps reducing pain by stimulating the nervous system and releasing endorphins, which are natural pain killers. It also reduces inflammation, swelling, and heat as a consequence of an injury.
- Faster recovery – when an injury happens, acupuncture serves for faster healing. It stimulates blood flow and nerve conduction in the injured tissue by sending adenosine – a natural stimulant for tissue repair. All this makes the recovery time shorter.
- Prevents injuries – every athlete has a weak area, so acupuncture helps identify the part of your body that needs extra precaution and care. Athletes are not always aware of that area, so releasing them and making them more loose, hydrated, and flexible prevents future injuries. Please do not wait until you get one because it is much easier to prevent than heal an injury.
- Increases flexibility – when in spasm, a muscle restricts the athlete’s range of motion due to its shortened length. When you push to the limits a muscle in that state, you increase the chance of injury. Piercing needles help relax the shortened muscle and thus relieve the pain. It is recommended once or twice a week for sports injuries, depends on the severity of the damage.
- Greater strength, endurance, and energy – by stimulating special acupoints, the therapist boosts blood and qi levels, giving you greater strength due to increased circulation. Greater blood flow brings essential nutrients and oxygen to tissues, thus generating more energy.
- Stronger immune system – it is known that intense exercise lowers the body’s immunity. Some studies suggest that acupuncture can increase specialized T-cells levels, responsible for triggering the immune system and fighting infections. The result is improved resistance to illness.
- Improves concentration and reduces anxiety – some athletes may experience nervousness or stage fright, so that acupuncture can help them mentally prepare for the event. Improving mental focus, regulating the nervous system, and relaxation are the main benefits of acupuncture, so athletes can have more endurance and be more effective during the game.
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Risks of Acupuncture for Athletes
Acupuncture treatments are considered safe when performed by a certified and experienced acupuncturist.
The therapist must be medically qualified by National Certification Commission in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM).
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulate acupuncture needles as medical equipment, so they need to meet specific standards. They must be sterile, non-toxic, and made for single use only.
But still, there are some minor side effects. Although uncommon, bleeding, bruising, or soreness may occur at the site of insertion. Inappropriate and repetitive use of needles may lead to severe infections, like hepatitis B and dermatitis.
In some extremely rare cases, acupuncture needles may puncture organs and damage tissues. They may break into fragments and injure internal organs.
Acupuncture is a relatively painless treatment. Patients usually experience increased energy levels after the acupuncture treatment, but sometimes patients may feel depleted. That is especially common if they undergo treatment on an empty stomach.
Acupuncture for Muscle Pain
Athletes rely on their muscles to perform. Training keeps their muscles in good shape. However, despite their best efforts, they suffer from injuries and pain. Muscle pain in athletes may be triggered due to overexertion, strenuous workout, or injury. Myalgia (muscle pain) may occur in any muscle or muscle group. The pain needs management and medical treatment.
There we have acupuncture as a form of safe and drug-free treatment. Needle insertion in targeted acupoint where pain occurs releases natural substances for alleviating pain (endorphins) and promotes the body’s self-healing. This offers more benefits than medicaments which can sometimes mask some other, more serious problems.
Acupuncture for Muscle Spasms
Muscle spasms are involuntary contractions of muscles, which are, in most cases, painful. Often known as cramps, they tend to resolve on their own after several minutes. The cause of muscle spasms in athletes may be dehydration and hypoxia due to excessive workouts.
Needling triggers the release of endorphins, encephalins, and other neurotransmitters. These chemicals are released in the muscles, spinal cord, and brain to reduce pain. Acupuncture thus unblocks the trapped energy in the body.
Acupuncture for Muscle Knots
Muscle knots or myofascial trigger points are hard, sensitive lumps in the muscles that are painful when pressed. They are areas within a muscle that do not fully relax; they stay contracted. Sometimes the pain spreads to the nearby muscle, which may twitch or move when the knot is pressed. It can be caused by acute, sustained, and repetitive muscle overload or overwork fatigue in athletes.
They can prevent knot formation by regularly stretching the muscles after the exercise.
When a knot is formed, acupuncture can help to ease the pain and discomfort. Inserting a needle into trigger points helps muscles relax, eliciting a “twitch response.” It is a contraction as a body’s reaction to its own healing mechanisms due to the release of histamines. Histamines are substances that relax blood vessels and increase blood flow into the area.
Acupuncture for Muscle Tension
Muscle rigidity, stiffness, or rigor is the muscle’s inability to relax normally, so it stays contracted or partially contracted for some time. It causes sharp pain in a muscle and makes you unable to move. There are numerous causes of muscle tension. One of them is a repetitive strain injury resulting from muscle overuse, often found in athletes. Sometimes muscles around the area of tension work harder to support it, resulting in radiating pain.
Acupuncture releases endorphins and triggers the production of dopamine which is a neurohormone. It relaxes fascia (connective tissue) around the muscle and loosens it up.
Who Tried It?
Many athletes see the advantage of acupuncture treatments; it is becoming a growing trend among high-end professionals.
- Soccer players
- Cross fitters
- Football players
- Lacrosse players
- Baseball players
- Marathon runners
- Volleyball players
- Professional mountain bikers
It is advisable for athletes to plan their acupuncture therapies, ideally six or more weeks before the big event, because the body needs time to rest properly. Acupuncture can be especially effective when combined with other types of conventional therapy, like physical therapy.