Whether you are a professional, college, or high school athlete (or maybe just a weekend warrior), you know that injuries can happen when you least expect it. Sometimes, it’s a traumatic injury because your body was pushed beyond its limit and sometimes, the injury comes from simple overuse. Let’s discuss how every athlete wants to get back on the field, court, or track as quickly as possible.

The Role of Acupuncture in Athletic Recovery

Many athletes have discovered that acupuncture is an ideal treatment to augment recovery, speed up healing, and reduce pain. Acupuncture basically works like this. When you suffer an injury, the flow of energy (also known as Qi) to and from the area becomes disrupted which causes pain and stagnation. Blood circulation can also be limited which can extend healing times, prolong swelling and bruising, which all combine to most people taking more pain medications.

Mechanism of Action: Restoring Balance and Flow

Acupuncture restores Qi flow to the injured area, enhancing circulation and removing cellular waste. Your acupuncturist may also incorporate herbal medicine to alleviate pain, either topically or internally, based on the injury type.

The Pacific College of Health and Science notes that specific acupuncture techniques aim to alleviate pain and expedite recovery. Traditional Chinese Medicine views pain and reduced function as disruptions in the body’s natural state, and treatment focuses on restoring internal harmony.

Research Insights: Efficacy of Acupuncture

“Recent studies show that acupuncture effectively treats sports injuries such as strains, sprains, neck, shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip, knee and ankle pain, swollen muscles and shin splints. In addition to treating the injury, Acupuncture can also improve performance and give athletes a competitive edge.”

Because of this “competitive edge,” many professional sports teams have acupuncturists on staff to help shorten healing time and resolve overuse injuries (i.e., throwing/pitching, tennis elbow/shoulder, track and field injuries, etc.). However, you don’t have to be a competitive athlete to benefit from regular acupuncture treatments.

Combining Acupuncture with Herbal Medicine

A 2015 study from Zhengzhou University examined the effects of Traditional Chinese Medicine style acupuncture and herbal treatments on amateur and professional athletes suffering from motor impairments due to physical training. The study ultimately found that the “total effective rate for the acupuncture only group was 70% and the herbal medicine group achieved a 62% effective rate.” Not bad results at all. However, the group receiving both acupuncture and herbal medicine achieved a total effective rate of just more than 84%. The researchers concluded that “acupuncture combined with herbs is highly effective for the treatment of physical activity induced motility impairments. The combined therapeutic approach is more effective than either treatment modality as a standalone procedure.”

Preventative Measures and Recovery Plans

If you’re training for a triathlon or marathon, or if you regularly play tennis or golf, considering regular acupuncture treatments can help prevent injuries. Discussing various preventive measures with your acupuncturist can help you avoid injuries before they occur, or you can consult them about a recovery plan if you’ve already experienced an acute traumatic injury. Your acupuncturist can assist you in achieving your goal of restoring balance and returning to the sports you love. Don’t hesitate, schedule an appointment today!