Updated: May 1
For centuries, acupuncture has been a popular way to help martial arts fighters manage the physical effects of their rigorous training regimes. Nowadays, even high-profile athletes like Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and David Beckham use acupuncture to improve their performance, endurance, and mental clarity during post-exercise recovery. But it's not just athletes who can benefit from acupuncture - whether you're a yoga enthusiast, a cyclist, a hiker, a swimmer, a dancer, or just someone who enjoys staying active, acupuncture can be a valuable tool for your post-workout recovery.
What is sports acupuncture?
Sports acupuncture is a style of Chinese medicine that incorporates neurology and the musculoskeletal system to treat muscle imbalances in the body. Single, filiform needles are inserted through the skin into motor points, trigger points, and distant acupuncture points to restore mobility and function to the affected tissues. The needles can be attached to an electrostimulation unit or manipulated by hand to elicit a healing response. Instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization techniques (IASTM) are often used after acupuncture treatments to improve fascial dysfunction and circulation. By working directly with the affected muscles, sports acupuncture can increase the range of motion, improve flexibility, reduce muscle tension, and correct muscle imbalances that cause reoccurring injuries.
Benefits of sports acupuncture for post-workout recovery
Improve circulation and blood flow: Research has shown that acupuncture increases nitric oxide activity at acupuncture points and channels. Since nitric oxide is a crucial circulation regulator, acupuncture is useful for regulating circulation in the local tissues. This helps speed up muscle recovery after intense physical exertion.
Better range of motion and flexibility: Acupuncture can help loosen tight muscles, tendons, and ligaments overused during training or competition, allowing you to perform at your best without risking further injury. In addition, acupuncture helps increase elasticity in joints by releasing adhesions within connective tissue, allowing for greater mobility.
Reduce muscle tension: Acupuncture has been shown to reduce pain associated with delayed onset muscle soreness after intense workouts. Acupuncture improves blood flow to tense muscles before the soreness kicks in. This reduces the amount of muscle shortening, which could negatively affect the range of motion. Therefore, reducing muscle tension is critical to preventing injury and reducing the stress on the surrounding muscles.
Faster recovery in-between workouts: Acupuncture may help your muscles recover faster after a workout, competition, or game; a faster recovery means a quicker return to training.
Strengthen inhibited or weak muscles: The body can be resilient through compensation when our muscles become weak. Other surrounding muscles will take over for the body to perform specific movements. Over time though, this causes these muscles to overwork and fatigue and can cause pain, dysfunction, or injury. Acupuncture can activate these weakened muscles (hello glutes!) through motor point acupuncture to restore function. If your glutes are weak or aren't firing correctly, no matter how much you try to strengthen them, they will not get stronger until you fix the imbalance.
Stress relief & mental clarity: Stress can deter our performance in all aspects of our life. Acupuncture can reduce stress by releasing endorphins, controlling our cortisol (stress hormone) release, and down-regulating our nervous system to our parasympathetic (rest and digest) state. This can reduce anxiety or stress before an intense workout, competition, or race, giving you a sense of mental clarity and allowing you to perform optimally.
Perform your best with acupuncture
If you enjoy staying fit and active or are a performance-based athlete, sports acupuncture is a valuable tool to incorporate into your post-workout recovery routine. Are you curious about seeing how this ancient medicine can help you? Schedule a free fifteen-minute consultation or contact me below.