If you are an athlete, injuries are an unfortunate part of training. Sometimes the injuries are traumatic requiring surgical intervention, but often injuries develop over time from overuse and untreated imbalances.
Acupuncture (as well as other Chinese medicine modalities such as cupping, gua sha, and herbal therapies) is effective at treating injuries by taking steps to help the body heal itself more quickly. And the magic for an acupuncturist is in the blood…
Blood contains everything that your body can use to recover from an injury. So, in Chinese medicine theory, the faster and more effectively we can increase blood flow to injured tissue, the faster and more completely the injury will heal.
This is why acupuncturists have recommended against icing most injuries long before Dr. Gabe Mirkin rescinded his now infamous advice to use the RICE method on injuries. Icing and complete rest of an injury will slow inflammation, which in effect also slows the healing process.
Inflammation consists of pain (to keep you from using the injured tissue and causing further injury), swelling (to allow for MORE blood flow to enter the tissue and begin the repair process) and redness/heat (as a result of that increased blood flow). This process of localized inflammation developed over our evolution to hasten recovery and using ice on an injury only slows the process down.
Acupuncturists will utilize other tools to help blood flow to the local area as well. Oftentimes trigger points develop at the site of the injury or in connected musculature. A trigger point is a hyperirritable, often tender spot in the fascia of a muscle that prevents the tissue from functioning. Specifically, trigger points can block blood from being able to saturate the muscle fibers. Releasing the trigger points with dry needling or trigger point needling can be an essential step in restoring function and relieving pain in the area. Dry needling can be intense (especially depending on the practitioner!) and unnecessary for some patients and conditions, but when appropriate it can make an enormous difference in the healing process.
Cupping therapy and/or gua sha (AKA Graston technique) are other common therapies used by sports medicine acupuncturists. These techniques focus on relieving tension in the soft tissue and, in the case of cupping, physically pulling up on the tissue to allow fresh blood to enter the injured tissue. The “cupping marks” that can develop occur in areas that have been starved of fresh blood flow for a period of time, the darker the color of the mark, the less oxygenated the underlying tissue. Cupping on non-compromised tissue will not result in lasting color, so cupping therapy itself can be a useful diagnostic tool in determining the location of injured tissue.
Herbal therapies for sports medicine often comprise of topical herbal liniments, patches or pastes applied to the site of injury meant to, you guessed it, improve blood flow to the local area. The herbs used have effects of penetrating deep into the tissue to help move blood into the local area, effectively speeding up that healing process.
Acupuncture, cupping, gua sha and herbal therapies are excellent choices for the treatment of sports-related injuries or for those interested in improving their performance by addressing imbalances.
Balance Wellness Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine specializes in Austin sports medicine acupuncture, dry needling in Austin, cupping therapy and herbal therapy to help you out of pain and improving performance quickly.