NFL quarterback Matt Hasselbeck does it. So does hockey superstar Jaromir Jagr. Olympic high-jumper Amy Acuff likes it so much that she learned how to practice it herself. New York City Ballet dancers swear by it.
Acupuncture is a go-to therapy for many of the world’s leading athletes—but you don’t have to be a pro to experience the benefits of acupuncture.
Whether you’re a die-hard marathoner, devoted yogi, gym rat or weekend warrior, acupuncture can enhance your performance by fortifying your overall health.
Acupuncture is a healing powerhouse with an added kick
Acupuncture is a highly effective, time-tested treatment for sports injuries because it resolves pain, accelerates healing and increases range of motion. Acupuncture achieves this by decreasing inflammation, swelling and bruising; relaxing muscles and relieving spasms; lowering the body’s pain response and improving circulation.
Recent clinical studies show that acupuncture provides true pain relief for a range of conditions, including chronic back, neck and shoulder pain. Additionally, the World Health Organization recognizes acupuncture as a safe and effective treatment for injuries, orthopedic conditions, and acute and chronic pain.
So, acupuncture works for pain, which is great news for athletes whose bodies suffer a lot of wear and tear.
But, and this is something most people are surprised to learn, acupuncture for athletes is actually most beneficial while they’re training, before an injury surfaces.
This is because—Lance Armstrong, listen up!—acupuncture can naturally boosts athletes’ energy levels, aid in post-workout recovery, and improve overall performance levels. Athletes who incorporate acupuncture as part of their regular training regimens notice better results and fewer injuries, and they seem to enjoy themselves more.
For instance, I regularly treat a female fitness competitor who adheres to a rigorous training schedule. Like many people, she turned to acupuncture as a last resort, to speed the recovery of a stubborn chronic injury. Once the injury disappeared after a series of twice-weekly acupuncture treatments, she continued coming to see me because of the “side effects” she started noticing—reduced anxiety before competitions, greater mobility and faster recovery time.
5 ways acupuncture boosts athleticism
Acupuncture can be used in conjunction with other forms of sports medicine, including physical therapy, massage, stretching and chiropractic. These modalities work together to help athletes achieve optimal results.
Here are five compelling reasons why acupuncture should always be included in any athlete’s healthcare mix:Acupuncture eases stress and anxiety
Nervous for that big race? Worried your serve isn’t up to par? Acupuncture’s balancing effect is beneficial for the mind, helping to lower stress and anxiety. Becoming more focused and relaxed will improve your athletic performance across the board.Acupuncture improves sleep
Ditch the Ambien. Acupuncture is a safe way to banish sleeping issues such as insomnia and waking throughout the night. Regular acupuncture treatments can help you start each day rested and ready to hit the weights, punching bag or that hot yoga class you’ve been meaning to try.Acupuncture strengthens the immune system
Studies have shown that acupuncture enhances immune-cell function in the body. Specifically, it helps the brain increase the body’s level of T-cells, the cells that destroy bacteria and harmful viruses in the body, even days after a session. By safeguarding against sickness, you’ll miss fewer workouts and perform better. (Start boosting your immunity right now with this two-minute acupressure routine.)Acupuncture speeds recovery time
In addition to accelerating the healing process, acupuncture helps your body bounce back from intensive exercise. For instance, a 2008 study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine discovered that participants who received acupuncture for muscle soreness 24 and 48 hours after they exercised to exhaustion reported significantly less pain than those who did not receive the treatment.Acupuncture increases awareness
Many people find that acupuncture helps them tune into their bodies, minds and emotions at deeper, subtler levels. Being mindful of yourself and your surroundings is a winning tool that is beneficial on and off the playing field.
There’s no doubt about it: Acupuncture is a powerful preventive and pro-performance modality that will benefit all aspects of any athlete’s health and wellbeing. Try it.
Photo by Sara Calabro
A former ballet dancer with a lifelong passion for health and active living, acupuncturist Erika Prinz Freed is dedicated to making a positive impact on peoples’ lives through an age-old medicine. Erika founded Prinz Acupuncture NYC, a private practice in Manhattan, is certified in Advanced Constitutional Facial Renewal™, and has completed training at the Beijing Traditional Medicine Training Center in China.
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