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Serious about exercise? 6 reasons why you need acupuncture

If you’re a keen follower of professional sport, then the chances are you’ve seen an athlete get injured and either receive treatment on the field of play or followed their recovery in the hands of their club’s medical team.

Getting injured comes with the territory for anyone who’s serious about sport and exercise. In professional sport, elite athletes are trained within a proven medical framework that protects them from injury as much as possible. But it’s a different story for amateurs.

Statistics show those who regularly play sport or are involved in strenuous exercise are far more likely to suffer a debilitating injury than their professional counterparts – simply because they don’t benefit from the same level of preventative advice and care.

And while professionals get paid for the recuperation that may be necessary to recover from a serious injury, most amateurs don’t enjoy the same luxury and are forced to try to rest as much as possible whilst also juggling the day job and a busy family life.

But did you know that many amateur and professional athletes use acupuncture as a way to keep themselves fit and, if they should be unlucky enough to get injured, help with their recovery?

Acupuncture relieves pain, inflammation, anxiety, and tight muscles. There are many different treatment options associated with this ancient Chinese therapy – from traditional needling and electroacupuncture to cupping, gua sha, moxibustion and acupressure.

Here are 6 reasons why athletes should consider using acupuncture to stay as fit as possible for as long as possible.

Acupuncture reduces pain

Although acupuncture can treat a wider variety of emotional and physical conditions, it is still most commonly used (both by athletes and non-athletes) to reduce pain.

The process of acupuncture, in which the body’s natural healing energy is rebalanced, triggers the production of endorphins (the body’s natural painkillers), and the release of marrow stem cells which convert to blood cells that carry oxygen, fight infection and reduce bleeding.

The neurological stimulation which acupuncture provides also helps to reduce joint and muscle inflammation and the pain associated with it.

In a 2017 study ion the analgesic effect of acupuncture, researchers concluded that acupuncture relieved pain faster than placebo acupuncture and painkiller injections.

Acupuncture aids faster recovery

Acupuncture reduces pain and inflammation, improves blood circulation and sleep, increases energy, and relieves muscle soreness and exhaustion. All of these issues are inhibitors when it comes to recuperation – if we’re in pain, find it difficult to sleep, or have poor circulation, we tend to become physically tense and unable to get the rest we need.

Conversely, if we’re able to rest and recuperate properly, we’re able to train more intensely and rigorously, which leads to improved performance in whatever sport or exercise we choose to do.

Sleep in particular is essential in allowing muscles to recover after strenuous activity.

A randomised study into American basketball players in 2011, using acupuncture and placebo acupuncture, found the acupuncture group had reduced blood lactic acid at both 30- and 60-minutes post-exercise than the other groups, suggesting that acupuncture can help elite basketball players recuperate.

Acupuncture can help to prevent injury

Posture, poor exercise form, chronic overuse, and muscle imbalances can cause tightness and discomfort. By treating these muscle and joint groups before exercise acupuncture helps them to stay elastic, lubricated, and flexible, reducing the risk of injury or fatigue.

Acupuncture can improve range of movement and flexibility

Acupuncture can actively help to improve the range of motion achievable by individual muscles, allowing for improved flexibility and, as a result, performance.

By alleviating pain and promoting muscle mobility through massage, heat and needling, stress on pain trigger points is eased, leading to a reduced risk of injury, better overall mobility, and greater physical confidence.

Acupuncture is particularly effective in this way when it comes to the treatment of frozen shoulder.

Acupuncture improves performance

Yes, it’s true. When used both pre- and post-exercise to relax the body, acupuncture improves athletic performance through increased physical power and better muscle stamina.

Acupuncture reduces performance anxiety and improves concentration

Focus and concentration are crucial for peak performance. Acupuncture reduces anxiety and improves cognitive function, leaving you free to focus on the game or your personal exercise objective.

There is now a great deal of supporting evidence to suggest that acupuncture is highly effective in treating anxiety problems.

The process of needling in acupuncture has been shown to reduce cognitive impairment by increasing production of both natural hormones such as dopamine (the so-called ‘happy hormone’) and enzymes that help to metabolise sugars and carbohydrates, which can affect mood and emotional balance.

If you’re looking for a way of protecting yourself from injury, improving your recovery rate and finding a more balanced way of approaching the exercise you do, please get in touch for an informal chat – we’d love to help.

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