Many pro athletes, sports clubs and sporting events are now leveraging acupuncture to enhance athletic performance and improve recovery times. In fact, more and more athletic organisations are recruiting an in-house acupuncturist, as it is possible that acupuncture can provide many benefits, especially when managing pain.
Acupuncture has been a common practice in China and other parts of Asia for over 2,500 years and it was recently published in the 2008 Olympic games in China as an effective supplemental therapy to prevent injuries and treat pain. Even the World Health Organisation and US National Institutes of Health promote acupuncture as an effective and safe tool in managing pain and injury.
How Does Acupuncture Help Athletes?
Acupuncture is a personalised, non-pharmaceutical, non-surgical method of therapeutic treatment. It is considered a holistic alternative to Western medicine, and it works to restore the body’s natural state and balance by boosting its ability to heal naturally.
- Pain relief
Acupuncture uses fine needles in certain points of our body called acupoints, and it helps with the release of endorphins, known as a natural painkiller. Experts believe that endorphins can provide long-lasting and rapid relief against pain. Patients will often feel the results after one treatment. Also, this alternative therapy may help decrease inflammation, increase range of motion, and it can even boost our immune system.
We all know that taking drugs can alleviate pain, but they will often give only short term relief and have side effects which may even exasperate the condition – creating permanent damage to the body. Acupuncture has no harmful side effects, and it is therefore becoming more popular among athletes.
- Improved blood flow
When the needles activate the meridians or acupoints, it may also increase nitrate oxide in our body. Nitrate oxide can relax and widen our blood vessels, opening up the arteries in the process. This will allow more blood flow to the heart and other organs, improving blood circulation and cardiovascular health.
- Injury treatment and prevention
Acupuncture may help promote cardiovascular and neurological balance, supporting homeostasis in our body. So, this alternative therapy can regulate nerve conduction and circulation in the area of the inflammation to speed up the healing process.
- Muscle relaxation
When blood flow is increased throughout the body, it is likely to help release tight muscles – reducing inflammation and relaxing the nerves. This will also help athletes relieve strain and fatigue. Most importantly, it reduces muscle soreness and gives athletes the means to recover much faster than usual.