Why you should add acupuncture to your training routine

More and more athletes, from professional football players, to olympic swimmers, to marathon runners, are adding acupuncture to their training and recovery regimens. Read below for 8 reasons why you should try acupuncture as you prepare for your next race or amp up your workout routine.

Acupuncture Portland running, sports medicine, athletes.

1. Acupuncture reduces inflammation and helps speed recovery

Studies have shown that acupuncture reduces inflammatory markers. Intense training can lead to soreness and sometimes trigger old injuries, making rest and recovery vitally important. The outdated advice to ice an injury restricts circulation, inhibits function and doesn't encourage healing. Acupuncture is a safe way to keep inflammation in check so you can avoid injury, experience less muscle fatigue and soreness, and reduce your recovery time. It also improves blood circulation, which is crucial for healing.

2. Acupuncture releases trigger points and fascial adhesions

Muscle motor point needling practiced by acupuncturists who specialize in sports medicine, aims to insert needles into muscle fibers with a high degree of neural activity. Once the needle hits the point of bound up tissue, the muscle will quickly spasm, and send a message to your nervous system that it can relax that muscle. Over time, this approach can literally rewire your muscle patterns.  

3. Acupuncture helps athletes hone their performance

Acupuncture strengthens the connection between the mind and the body, which can increase athletic performance. This is because acupuncture stimulates a parasympathetic nervous system response (e.g. 'rest and digest’). With regular treatment you can actually improve your ability to tune into this mental state so that you are able to access it when you need it, such as before a race or big game.

NFL fullback Tony Richardson receives regular acupuncture.  Photo credit Michael Nagle for The New York Times.

NFL fullback Tony Richardson receives regular acupuncture. Photo credit Michael Nagle for The New York Times.

4. Acupuncture improves sleep, boosts energy and relieves stress

Acupuncture treatments can be incredibly relaxing. Many patients describe it as going to “aculand", a zone where they are able to relax and reset. But the restorative benefits last far longer than the restful nap you get on the table with needles in. Regular acupuncture has been shown to improve both the amount and quality of sleep and reduce the use of sleep aids. Acupuncture also alleviates stress, largely thanks to the endorphins that needling releases.

5. A treatment usually includes some form of bodywork

A typical treatment for an active person will include cupping, gua sha or Tuina (a Chinese style of massage). Cupping encourages proper circulation and gua sha breaks up fascial adhesions. The combination of bodywork with acupuncture is rejuvenating and leaves your tired muscles feeling amazing. Need I say more? 

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6. Acupuncture seeks to find the root cause of illness

Acupuncture is part of a complete system of Chinese medicine that seeks to address the root cause of your health problems. There are no quick fixes or bandaids for symptoms in Chinese medicine. Seemingly unrelated things like your digestion, sleep patterns and temperature are all part of your unique pattern of health. It is an acupuncturist's job to do a thorough intake, assess the pulse and tongue, and gather a complete picture in order to get to the root of what is causing imbalance for a particular patient. 

7. Acupuncture treats more than pain

Acupuncture has been shown to regulate hormones, stimulate the immune system and calm the nervous system, so it’s not surprising that it can benefit our complete health. Acupuncture can effectively treat headaches, insomnia, anxiety, depression, sinus congestion, digestive issues, infertility, menstrual issues, allergies, asthma, skin conditions, the common cold…the list goes on. 

8. Acupuncture is painless, safe and effective

Most people experience little to no pain with acupuncture, beyond the initial pinch when the needles are inserted. Acupuncture needles are tiny — as thin as a strand of hair in some cases, and flexible. In fact, acupuncture typically feels good, even to needle-phobic people. Unlike pharmaceuticals or surgery, acupuncture is safe (when done by a licensed acupuncturist) and free of side effects. It is also well-studied for many conditions, with more clinical trials being done each year. So go ahead and give acupuncture a try!

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