When it comes to improving performance and recovering from running injuries, there are many tools that a physiotherapist will have under their belt to deliver the suitable and most effective treatment. Acupuncture and dry needling are such tools; used within a holistic physiotherapy program, they can be effective for the management of pain and inflammation.
At Breeze Academy, we offer a number of acupuncture and dry needling courses for health professionals. Runner and Senior Physiotherapist Jenna Brassington is one of our recent class attendees, you can read about her experience with the course and the impact that acupuncture had on her running.
Is there a difference between acupuncture and dry needling?
While acupuncture and dry needling use similar tools, the approach to the body is different. Acupuncture focuses on the meridian lines of the body, based on Traditional Chinese Medicine practices that aim to balance the flow of energy through the body in order to prevent ill health. Dry needling, on the other hand, is a much more modern practice that focuses on treating myofascial trigger points in order to reduce pain and inflammation.
While dry needling and acupuncture are in fact different practices, they overlap in reach and in their ability to treat pain, and can often be used within the same treatment plan. You can read more about the differences between acupuncture and dry needling here.
The benefits of Dry Needling and Acupuncture for runners
In this article, we look at some of the benefits that acupuncture and dry needling can bring to runners as part of their pain prevention and pain management treatment.
1. Faster recovery time
Acupuncture can improve blood circulation by activating the natural anti-inflammatory response that is responsible for blood vessel dilatation, and vascular permeability. This process helps reduce inflammation and encourages the flow of blood to the injured area, reducing the recovery time of the injury.
2. Improved sleep
Acupuncture has also been found to improve sleep quality and treat insomnia by reducing the activity of the sympathetic nervous system, encouraging blood flow, and the release of melatonin and nitric oxide content.
We know that quality of sleep can have important impacts on sports performance, but acupuncture can also positively impact runners’ performance by improving their ability to rest and recuperate.
3. Improving painful conditions
Dry needling can be used to deactivate sensitive myofascial trigger points to reduce the pain associated with different conditions that affect runners. A 2020 study by Ma et al. for example, found that dry needling the trigger points in the inner, outer, and middle thigh muscles once a week for six weeks, along with stretching exercises, reduced pain and improved the function in participants suffering from patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), or runners knee.
In essence, dry needling deactivates the myofascial trigger point that creates tension within the limb, and allows the muscle to relax and stretch, delivering pain relief.
4. Injury prevention
Dry needling can effectively activate inactive muscles and correct the muscle imbalances that lead to injury. For example, activating the lateral glute muscles, - an area that often becomes inactive in runners - through acupuncture or dry needling can restore the connection between this muscle and the brain. Reactivating this muscle increases the stability of the pelvis, and leads to more balanced movement overall, helping prevent future injury.
5. Performance improvement
As we have seen above, acupuncture and dry needling can have many positive effects on essential aspects of a runner's health, which in turn can positively impact their performance. By helping with pain management, speeding up recovery time, preventing injury, encouraging blood flow, and relieving stress and anxiety, acupuncture and dry needling can be essential tools for improving a runner's performance.
Acupuncture Courses for Healthcare Professionals
Are you a healthcare professional looking to learn more about dry needling and acupuncture? At Breeze Academy, we have over 10 years of experience in delivering Dry Needling & Acupuncture foundation, CPD, and specialised courses across the globe. You can also learn more about the effects of acupuncture on different conditions, like migraines, chronic pain, joint pain, or stress and anxiety, and read about past participant’s experiences with the course on our blog.
Ma YT, Li LH, Han Q, Wang XL, Jia PY, Huang QM, Zheng YJ. Effects of trigger point dry needling on neuromuscular performance and pain of individuals affected by patellofemoral pain: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Pain Research. 2020;13:1677.