Sports are competitive by nature. Pushing physical limits to extremes, some athletes will push their bodies too far in the drive to win, leading to injury. Others are looking for an edge in competition. Still others simply want to improve their game and reduce stress. A branch of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine grew out of the martial arts traditions in China, and has played an important role in keeping both ancient fighters and modern athletes healthy and active.
Over the last 30 years, acupuncture has grown in popularity in the United States, with millions of people turning to acupuncture for a wide variety of illnesses and injuries. Among professional and amateur athletes, the use of acupuncture has grown steadily, to the point that it is almost trendy for professional athletes to have a "staff acupuncturist." There are three main areas in which acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help pros and weekend warriors alike: treatment of sports injuries, prevention of sports injuries and athletic performance enhancement.
As a former competitive martial artist, I've had my share of injuries, and pushed myself through the associated pain. Injuries are a fact of an active life, whether you play team sports, rock climb, cycle or spend your weekends with golf and tennis. As most sports injuries involve the musculoskeletal system, acupuncture, massage, Tui Na, herbs, and Chinese dietary therapy can greatly help speed the healing of injuries. Often, athletes are able to return to training and competing sooner than would otherwise be possible. Pulled muscles, strains and sprains, tendonitis, bursitis, and more serious injuries can all benefit significantly.
Chinese medicine has many tools to help prevent injuries and the recurrence of injuries. Through acupuncture, nutrition, herbal support, and proper preparation and training, injuries can be minimized or avoided.
Oriental medicine is also helpful in treating old injuries that sideline your work and play in later years. Regular treatment helps your body stay in balance. A body in balance is less susceptible to injury and illness.
Athletes know that efficient training is the best way to improve performance. You may not know that there are also supplements, herbal formulas and acupuncture treatments that can help improve athletic performance when used as part of a comprehensive program. Oriental medicine approaches health in a holistic manner.
In the Chinese medical framework, the human body is seen as an energetic collection of functions, in contrast to the Western view of the body as a mechanical collection of parts. The body, mind, and spirit are not separate, but interacting concepts. In an integrated approach to health, acupuncture is just part of a balance of training, nutrition, proper warm-up and warm-down, meditation and relaxation.
Acupuncture is currently used widely by athletes in Russia, China, Korea and Japan. A growing body of research confirms that it works as well in the West as it does in the East. Olympic athletes, baseball players, football teams regularly employ acupuncture and Chinese medicine as part of the training regimen. Many local teams and clubs are beginning to offer acupuncture to their members. In the UK several professional football (soccer) teams have full-time acupuncturists on their training staffs Almost any type of athlete can benefit from acupuncture and Oriental medicine, form runners to gymnasts, cyclists to hockey players.
Serious injuries such as fractures, dislocations, torn tendons, and serious internal injuries should be treated by a medical doctor or hospital. Recovery from many of these injuries, however, can be augmented by acupuncture, herbs and nutrition.