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Injured Athletes and Acupuncture

I have always been amazed at the clinical results that I have seen with injured athletes and acupuncture. For a while, Carrie and I worked closely with a number of athletes from a world championship athletic team, the Santa Barbara Condors At the world class level, these athletes would be compared to world cup soccer players in the way their body is used and abused. My findings were that for most types of injuries, acupuncture had profound results. What is important is the distinction between acupuncture that is used to get rid of pain, and acupuncture that is used to relax the muscles and soft tissue (while freeing up the energy flow). Also, the distinction of separating sprain from strain and tear. The best results that I always found were from stress and strain. Tear, I would always refer to an Orthopedic Physician and suggest herbs to speed up the healing process. When it comes to knots, clicks, pops, soreness, tension, and aches, acupuncture is extremely effective.

As a warning, I would caution athletes to train as if they are competing. If you are interested in getting acupuncture, start in the off season, and stay with it through the year. If you are close to your championships and have never had acupuncture, you may get the results you are looking for, but with all complimentary medicine, expect the unexpected. You don't want to be too relaxed on the day of a competition, and if you are always high strung and relax deeply you may get a detox reaction. While a detox reaction is usually mild, such as light headedness, nausea, or fatigue, these changes in the body are not desirable just prior to competition.

There are times to treat injured athletes with acupuncture and times to look for other modalities. During competition, I would shy away from providing treatment. During the Condors National Championship finals Carrie and I were on the side line providing massage for the athletes between games. One of the players was recovering from a broken back the year prior and continually found himself needing to leave the field in pain during what was an intense and highly competitive game. He would leave the field holding his back and slightly hunched. Carrie and I would work on him with deep tissue massage and stretching, and then back onto the field he would run as if there was no pain. He ended up becoming the national player of the year that year for his outstanding game. We had never worked with him before, so acupuncture on game day (or during the game) was out of the question. We chose massage and it paid off.

The moral of the story is that complimentary medicine has its place in sports. It is highly effective. As an Oriental Medical Physician, I would encourage athletes to use complimentary modalities throughout the year. Injured Athletes and Acupuncture go well together. But better to prevent the injuries in the first place. Perhaps I should have named this article "Healthy Athletes and Acupuncture." I have used acupuncture for: dislocated shoulders, pulled groin muscles, back pain, tennis elbow, hamstring tears, shin-splints and many other types of injuries. If you are curious about oriental medicine and athletes, contact your local licensed acupuncturist and try it for yourself.

Posted by Mark at August 5, 2004 07:55 AM


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