In 2009 the San Francisco Giants hired a staff acupuncturist. In 2010 the Giants snapped a 56 year streak and won the World Series, they won again in 2012. Acupuncture to improve sports performance and limit injuries works!
One of the most frustrating parts of being an athlete at any level is the inability to perform at your highest potential because of injuries, fatigue, or lingering pain. Over time, these injuries not only affect your performance but also the longevity of your athletic career.
How does acupuncture help my athletic performance?
During any athletic season – between training and games, matches or races – an athlete’s body is put through constant stress. The muscles are pushed until they reach their maximum potential and form tiny micro tears, which if given time to recover and rest, the body will heal and become stronger.
However, as an athlete continues to train, play and race, their body may not have the energy to properly heal its minor bumps, bruises and tears. This can lead to fatigue, pain, insomnia and possible injury. Acupuncture helps the body to balance, to restore or maintain its levels of qi (energy) and to build up any weaknesses, accelerating each athlete’s recovery time. By strengthening the body from the inside out, you can maximize your athletic potential.
Why Midland acupuncture excels in athlete health, prevention and recovery from injury?
At Midland Acupuncture we excel in using acupuncture to heal injured athletes and to also prevent injury. The secret to our success when treating athletes is combining anatomical structure and functional assessment with the traditional theories and diagnosis skills of acupuncture. All of our treatment plans share one common philosophy, “Restoring the proper function of joints, soft tissue, muscles and the nervous system returns the body to a homeostatic state which improves performance.”
How acupuncture treats sports injuries
Acute vs. Chronic injuries
The body’s response to an acute injury causes tightening of muscles, swelling, stiffness, and pain. These stagnations need to be moved in order for the body to regain optimal health. Acupuncture frees up these blockages and releases the tight muscles and trigger points so the body’s energy can flow freely, promoting healing and recovery.
Over time, injuries that are ignored or mistreated begin to break down the bodies energy levels and usually lead to worse injuries or additional injuries in surrounding areas. As the body’s internal recovery system is weakened, it exposes the entire body to potential injury. Acupuncture enables the body to heal and build qi (energy) levels, allowing the natural healing systems of the body to maximize recovery.
Healing with acupuncture
Muscle pain, trigger points and motor points
Trigger points are tight bands or knots in a muscle that cause a person to feel referred pain in other areas of the body. These trigger points can be active or dormant and can cause pain sensations that sideline many athletes. Picture a rubber band, a normal rubber band can stretch and return to its normal length without much effort, but if you tie a knot in the middle of the rubber band it shortens and no longer can function properly. This is similar to what happens with muscles, if a trigger point causes a muscle to shorten then it looses not just its function but also strength, range of motion, flexibility and most importantly proper function. In order to remove that knot we have to “work it out” this can be done by using a foam roller, through massage or through acupuncture. By inserting a very thin needle into a muscle fiber that is knotted you send a signal to the body to release the knot and restore proper function of the muscle.
What’s the best way to release a trigger point?
Acupuncture is one of the most effective ways to release trigger points in the body. When a massage therapist releases a trigger point, it can be very painful because they have to trap the trigger point in the muscle and squeeze with their hand until it is released. If a trigger point is released by a physical therapist or doctor who uses a syringe (a large needle), this syringe can cause excess bruising and muscle tears that take longer to heal. Acupuncture uses a tiny needle that allows access into muscles without causing excessive muscle tears and bruising and quickly releases the trigger point.
WARNING: If you are seeking this kind of therapy always check to make sure your acupuncturist or therapist has very intense training in trigger point release also known as Intra Muscular Stimulation or Dry Needling. Some practitioners are attempting these techniques after only taking a weekend course. If not performed by an experienced practitioner deep needling of trigger points can be dangerous and cause nerve damage, pneumothorax, and arterial or organ perforation.
Motor points, the Yin and Yang of healing
When assessing an injury you have to look at the yin and yang aspect of the body, for example if a muscle is shortened then another muscle is lengthened. If we only release the trigger points without balancing the body then not only will the injury return, but it can lead to other injuries. One of the most effective ways to balance the body is using motor points in the muscles. A motor point is where the motor nerve enters the muscle. These motor nerves carry signals to the muscle that tell the muscle when to contract. When a muscle is damaged these impulses don’t fire correctly and a muscle can remain in a shortened or over stretched state. Once the trigger point or lesion in a muscle is released it is important to incorporate the needling of muscle motor points to “jump start” the muscle. When a motor point is needled it has an effect on the motor nerve innervation which causes changes in the muscle spindles, this can result in making tight muscles looser, weak muscles stronger and increased range of motion.
Pulling it all together
The final and most important element to any treatment is balancing the athletes body energetically. By using the diagnostic tools of tongue, pulse and palpation we assess any underlying imbalances and develop a treatment plan specific to your bodies needs. Then by using acupuncture, moxa, cupping, and many other healing methods we balance you so that your body is functioning at its strongest ability.
Sports injuries are injuries that typically occur while participating in organized sports, competitions, training sessions, or organized fitness activities. These injuries may occur for a variety of reasons, including improper training, lack of appropriate footwear or safety equipment.
The injuries are of two general types. The first type is called an acute traumatic injury. These injuries usually involve a single blow from a single application of force, like getting a cross-body block in football. The second type of sports injury is called an overuse or chronic injury. Chronic injuries are those that happen over a period of time. Chronic injuries are usually the result of repetitive training, such as running, overhand throwing, or serving a ball in tennis.
Sprain and strain of the joint and surrounded tissue are one of the most common sports related injuries (sprain involves the ligament and strain involves muscle or tendon). Besides pain, the typical inflammatory response may include swelling of the injured area, redness or purple skin discoloration, and reduced range of motion of the joint. In addition to conventional R.I.C.E (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) treatment, many athletes have found acupuncture treatment to be very helpful in quickly suppressing inflammation and swelling.
The athletes frequently report weakness at the injury site and describe the pain as “deep and dull” aching in nature. There may also be sensations of “pins and needles”, tingling and numbness that accompanies the injury or referred sensations that travel away from the injury site. The athletes may have difficulty in locating the pain but can often reproduce the pain with particular movements. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture points are utilized to address the injury and can often help to alleviate the pain.
Acupuncture has a very successful record with sports injuries. Many professional sports teams have acupuncturists on staff to decrease healing times and resolve stubborn ailments. The use of acupuncture to treat acute injuries from intense or repetitive physical activity began centuries ago. It was, and still is, one of the primary means of quick healing for the martial arts. Specific acupuncture styles and techniques were developed to stop pain and dramatically increase recovery time. This tradition continues today and its use has expanded into competitive athletics that result in similar injuries. Pain is one of the most common complaints in sports injuries followed by reduced function. The whole approach of Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture to the treatment of pain and reduced function is to see it as a disorder in the body’s natural state. The treatment is geared toward rectifying the disorder and restoring internal harmony.
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.
The largest clinical study of acupuncture ever conducted was published in the December 2004 Annuals of Internal Medicine and found acupuncture to significantly reduce and improve function in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee. In recent years, acupuncture has become more popular in Western countries and is now recognized by the National Institute of Health as an acceptable form of treatment for pain.