Acupuncture for Athletes
Sports Medicine Acupuncture entails the use of acupuncture along with the other modalities of Chinese Medicine I use in my practice. The treatment may also include myofascial release, postural assessment, and a prescription of corrective exercises. Orthopedic tests and assessment exams are used for diagnosis. Needles are inserted into musculoskeletal motor points [mostly different from traditional acupuncture points] to rebalance neuromuscular functioning and treat all musculoskeletal injuries. A motor point is a site where motor nerves enter the muscle. Needles are a perfect conductor of electricity of the nervous system to communicate, rebalance, heal, and release traumas held in the musculoskeletal system after an injury.
A few examples of when to visit a Sports Medicine Acupuncturist is when you have suffered or suffering from:
- Tension headaches
- Any neck pain
- Degenerative joint or disc disease
- Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
- Any Shoulder Injuries or Pain
- Any Elbow Injuries or Pain
- Wrist injuries or pain like De Quervain’s and Carpal Tunnel
- Any back Pain
- Any knee Injuries or Pain
- Any ankle Injuries or Pain or Sprains
- Foot pains like Plantar Fasciitis, Morton’s Neuroma, or Heel Spurs
Acupuncture for Wellness
Acupuncture is an effective treatment for pain, insomnia, infertility, headaches, addiction and any general malaise that keeps one from living to their fullest. An excellent option for those that do not tolerate medication well. In use for thousands of years, acupuncture has broad spectrum systemic effects to facilitate optimal health using the body’s natural energy flow. The possible side effects of acupuncture are infections and pneumothorax, however this is very rare and risk is further mitigated by the excellent hygiene and expertise of the practitioner.
Electro-Acupuncture is the term used to refer to the application of a pulsating electrical current to acupuncture needles at acupuncture point sites on the body. The current varies on the treatment, however no current is actually transmitted through the body— there is only enough stimulation for the patient to feel a slight pulsating sensation. A standard treatment session usually lasts between 10 and 20 minutes and rarely exceeds half an hour. It is a convenient stimulation technique that can be used for a variety of treatments; stubborn neurological disorders, chronic pain, spasms, paralysis, sports or common injuries of the muscles or joints. Electro-acupuncture has been proven to promote the flow of Qi and blood, relieve pain, and warm the muscles, removing blood stasis (a blockage, or poor circulation). It is contraindicated for patients who are pregnant, experience seizures or have a history of heart disease, strokes, epilepsy, and patients with pacemakers.
Gua Sha is an important hands-on medical treatment that has been used throughout Asia for centuries. Gua means ‘to rub’ or ‘press stroke’. Sha is a term that describes the blood congestion in surface tissue in areas where the patient may experience stiffness and pain; Sha is also the term for the little red dots that are raised from applying Gua Sha (Nielsen 2012). When Gua press-stroking is applied in repeated even strokes, Sha appears as small red dots called ‘petechiae’ and the pain immediately shifts. In minutes the small red dots fade into blended reddishness. The Sha disappears totally in two to three days after treatment. The color of Sha and rate of fading can indicate important information about a patient’s condition. Pain relief lasts even after the sha is completely gone.
The benefits of Gua Sha are numerous. It resolves spasms and pain, and promotes normal circulation to the muscles, tissues and organs, as seen in Gua Sha’s immediate effect on coughing and wheezing. Research has shown that Gua Sha causes a four-fold increase in microcirculation of surface tissue (Nielsen et al. 2007) and can reduce inflammation and stimulate the immune system (Braun et al. 2011; Chan et al. 2011). Gua Sha upregulates heme-oxygenase-1 [HO-1], that acts to reduce internal organ inflammation, for example, in cases of asthma, hepatitis and liver disease.
The patient experiences immediate changes in stiffness and pain with increased mobility. Because Gua Sha mimics sweating, it can help to resolve fever. Gua Sha cools the patient who feels too warm, warms the patient who feels too cold, while relaxing tension and reducing anxiety. Acupuncturists and practitioners of traditional East Asian medicine consider Gua Sha for any illness or condition where there is pain or discomfort, for upper respiratory and digestive problems, and any condition where touch palpation indicates there is sha. Gua Sha is often done in combination with acupuncture for problems that acupuncture alone cannot address.
Cupping is the term applied to a technique that uses small glass cups as suction devices that are placed on the skin to disperse and break up stagnation and congestion by drawing congested blood, energy or other humors to the surface. In dry cupping, the therapist will simply place the suction cups on the skin. In wet cupping, the practitioner will make a small incision on the skin and then apply the suction cup to draw out small amounts of blood. There is a visual side effect of cupping which is mild bruising, but the skin returns to normal within 10 days or less.
The old Chinese medical theory holds that pain results from the congestion, stagnation, and blockage of Qi, or vital energy, vital fluids, lymph, phlegm, and blood. If pain is the essence of disease, then suffering is a result of obstructed or irregular flow in the body. Chinese cupping is therefore a method of breaking up the blockage to restore the body’s natural flow of energy. Cupping is combined with acupuncture in one treatment, but it can also be used alone. The suction and negative pressure provided by cupping can loosen muscles, encourage blood flow, and sedate the nervous system (high blood pressure), relieve back and neck pains, stiff muscles, anxiety, fatigue, migraines, and rheumatism.
For weight loss and cellulite, oil is first applied to the skin, and then the cups are moved up and down the surrounding area. The suction in the cups causes the skin and superficial muscle layer to be lightly drawn into the cup. For most patients, this is a particularly relaxing and relieving sensation. Once suctioned, the cups are generally left in place for about ten or more minutes while the patient relaxes. In fact, respiratory conditions are one of the most common maladies that cupping is used to relieve. Cupping removes toxins and improves blood flow through the veins and arteries. Especially useful for athletes is cupping’s potential to relieve muscle spasms. A few other benefits include an improved metabolism, relief from constipation, a healthy appetite, and stronger digestion as well as an effective alternative method of treating acne, pain, facial paralysis, cervical spondylosis, and herpes zoster.
Moxibustion is the use of moxa (dried mugwort) to warm areas of the body with the intention of stimulating the circulation of Qi and blood through areas of the body that are plagued by pain and stagnation. The therapy consists of the dried herb being lit on fire and either attached to acupuncture needles, put directly on another herbal remedy (a thick slice of ginger, salt), a barrier chamber, or indirectly held above a point on the body. Mugwort also acts as an emmenagogue which means that it stimulates the flow of blood in the pelvic area. It is frequently used in the treatment of menstrual disorders and also to turn breech babies. For injuries it is used to rapidly promote healing by increasing blood circulation to the area, reduce swelling and pain.
For thousands of years herbs were the principal form of medical treatment. It is only in recent history that western science-based medicine and pharmaceuticals have become more of the standard practice. Modern medicine tends to use drugs to treat the only the branch of an illness by reducing its symptoms. These medications can have dangerous side effects with longterm use. Herbal medicine is more customized to the individual’s root cause of disease, with virtually no side effects, just like acupuncture. Herbal formulas assist the body’s own healing processes which, by definition, work on the body as a complete whole through nourishing what the body needs or detoxing what is causing the predicament.
The medicinal use of herbal formulas is well established and are effective in treating a wide variety of ailments and for the enhancement of existing good health. Plants are essential to human life providing us with many vitamins and minerals when eaten fresh. Herbs utilize the essence and energy of the plant which can be applied topically or ingested as prescribed. A highly knowledgeable practitioner is essential for optimal effectiveness of various forms of plant therapy, and to avoid contraindications.
The forms of herbal medicine are raw herbs, powdered herbs, powdered herbs in a capsule, a tincture, topical treatment and/or liniment. A tincture is a liquid potion with the therapeutic properties of the herbs extracted by an alcohol, same as a liniment. I prescribe tinctures due to it’s effectiveness, convenience, and inexpensiveness. I also prescribe a topical herb gel called X-Jow for the patient to use at home and use liniments during the treatments.