Could acupuncture help the recovery of Olympic athletes? I was just reading through the research news section on the Journal of Chinese Medicine site and came across the following piece of research:
Auricular acupuncture (AA) can enhance athletes’ recovery after strenuous exercise, suggests the results of a Taiwanese study. Twenty-four elite male university basketball players were randomly divided into two groups; one received AA, and the other acted as a normal control group. All subjects in both groups then rode a stationary bike to exhaustion. The results showed that both maximum heart rate and blood lactic acid concentrations were significantly lower in the AA group, compared with the control group, at 30 and 60 minutes post-exercise.
(Effects of auricular acupuncture on heart rate, oxygen consumption and blood lactic acid for elite basketball athletes. Am J Chin Med. 2011;39(6):1131-8).
Now although this was a small trial it does support the view of authors such as Yun-tao Ma that acupuncture can help with recovery and the prevention of over-training:
Whilst Yun-tao Ma takes a very modern neurophysiological approach to acupuncture it might not appeal to traditional acupuncturists. They might find Yoshito Mukaino’s, ‘Sports Acupuncture’, a more sympathetic approach:
I certainly found it a more user friendly and interesting approach to sports acupuncture – although it has more of an emphasis on rehab of injuries rather that treating recovery and over-training. I find it sad that so few athletes use acupuncture – either for injuries or for recovery. Whilst some might have a physiotherapist (physical therapist) who does a bit of acupuncture they are unlikely to address the issue of recovery, which requires deeper skills of acupuncture.
I personally treat recovery and injuries using a traditional Chinese acupuncture approach with a myofascial trigger point approach thrown on top. I haven’t given any book references as there are so many well known works on this subject. It works well, but as mentioned above, I rarely get athletes consulting with me. If you work with athletes I would love comments on how you work, get patients, what results you get. This is an area where acupuncture is very under utilized and I feel we need to somehow get the word out.