Does Acupuncture Work for Athletes?

Breeze Academy January 26, 2022
Does Acupuncture Work for Athletes

In recent years, acupuncture has gained popularity amongst professional and amateur athletes alike, but does it actually work to aid recovery and boost performance? In this article, we take a look into acupuncture for athletes and answer your common questions.

So, does acupuncture work for athletes? Acupuncture is a great ongoing holistic treatment for athletes as it helps to relieve pain, encourages faster recovery, prevents further injuries, improves range of motion, and aids overall performance. What’s more, in some cases, it can also boost mental health and reduce performance anxiety. 

Read on to learn more about the benefits of acupuncture for athletes.

Does Acupuncture Work for Athletes?

Acupuncture is a great CAM therapy (complementary and alternative medicine) for athletes that offers wide-ranging benefits from pain reduction and improved range of motion, right through to enhancing performance (1, 2), and even preventing future injuries. 

Although some people are still sceptical about the success of acupuncture, various studies have concluded that acupuncture is a valid alternative treatment to Western medicine for a range of concerns. Although, some of which may benefit from complementary interventions or exercise therapies to achieve maximum benefits.

What’s more, acupuncture is a non-invasive therapy that does not introduce drugs to the system, which can be a problem for athletes, and produces few, if any, side effects to get in the way of ongoing training. 

How Does Acupuncture Help Sports Injuries?

Acupuncture helps sports injuries in a number of ways. It can help to relieve pain, improve blood flow and reduce inflammation, improve range of motion, and generally speed up recovery time. 

A study from 2020 suggests that acupuncture may be particularly effective for managing sports injuries such as lateral meniscus rupture, femoral acetabular impingement, ganglion cysts, and sports hernia. They also suggest that acupuncture is worth trying for conditions such as yips and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

Other conditions acupuncture may be able to help include:

  • Frozen shoulder
  • Tennis elbow
  • Back pain
  • Pulled tendons and tendonitis
  • Torn ligaments
  • Arthritis
  • Sciatica
  • Tight muscles

Does Acupuncture Help Muscle Recovery?

The 2020 study previously mentioned suggests that acupuncture shows potential for aiding musculoskeletal conditions beyond pain relief and pain management, perhaps as a result of increased circulation and a reduction in inflammation. Another study from 2008 claimed that acupuncture proved to reduce perceived pain as a result of exercise-induced muscle soreness.

Further research found that not only can acupuncture relieve muscle pain and DOMS, but may also have the potential to quicken recovery times between workouts and competitions. This may be particularly useful to elite athletes that are constantly putting pressure on their body, and muscles, with daily workouts and regular events. 

Can Acupuncture Loosen Tight Muscles?

Acupuncture and dry needling are great options for relieving tight muscles, or trigger points. When muscles become tight, they stop going through the cycle of contracting and relaxing, meaning that less blood can reach the muscle. 

Acupuncture directly targets the tightness, causing it to involuntarily contract into a more relaxed state. What’s more, as we have already stated, a great benefit of acupuncture is improved circulation, which will further help to relieve the tightness in the muscle and reduce pain.

Is Acupuncture Good for Soft Tissue Damage?

Acupuncture has been found to be effective in treating soft tissue damage. From a western perspective, acupuncture releases endorphins to help relieve pain as a result of tissue damage, whilst improved circulation can help to speed up the healing process, and can help to reduce the risk of repeat injury. 

Common soft tissue injuries that acupuncture can help with include:

  • Sprains and strains
  • Bruises and contusions
  • Tendonitis
  • Bursitis

Final Thoughts

A wide variety of studies conducted over recent years all point towards acupuncture not just working for athletes, but also being highly effective. Acupuncture has the potential to relieve pain, DOMS, muscle soreness, and muscle tightness, speed up recovery time, reduce the risk of reinjury, and generally enhance performance. 

We’ve touched on acupuncture being a great complementary treatment to other interventions, but in relation to athletes and sports injuries, acupuncture has the potential to strongly complement physiotherapy and massage therapy to great effect. As such, training in acupuncture may enable you to increase your practice offerings, gain new clients, and reach new markets. 

Breeze Academy offers a range of acupuncture courses for healthcare professionals like physiotherapists and massage therapists that will allow you to increase your practice offerings. Choose from foundation acupuncture courses for complete beginners, intermediate acupuncture courses to maintain and update knowledge, or more specialised acupuncture courses that focus on specific ailments, such as our Acupuncture in Sport course.

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