If there is one thing top athletes are over sensitive about, it’s their bodies. Athletes track their training, their diet, their rest, and most importantly their recovery. While sports massages and body work has been common practice for years and many major sporting events have these professionals on staff to work on their athletes, another trend seems to be emerging, acupuncture. Whether they are top climbers, runners, skiers, or other athletes more and more seem to be turning to acupuncture as part of their prep and recovery. Just last night in a room full of athletic women about half were currently or had been to the acupuncturist during the last month.
Acupuncture is a traditional form of Chinese medicine. The idea stems from the belief that triggering specific points on the body will corrects imbalances in the flow of qi through channels known as meridians. Or in other words it opens the flow in your body. The process involves small needles pressed into the skin at specific points. The needles are very small and minimally invasive (they don’t hurt). Most people just know of acupuncture as getting stuck with a needle but it’s much more than that, it’s an entire experience.
Athletes today are using acupuncture for a number of reasons, recovery from injury, pre-competition prep, fatigue, and overall well being. In the cases of recovery some athletes find that working within our traditional medical system just isn’t curing their ailments and turn to acupuncture to help. In my own case, acupuncture has played a huge role in my own recovery from a terrible ankle sprain. By opening your Qi it also can help after a particularly hard workout to keep those muscles from tensing up. Prior to WTM I was in the acupuncturist office and she specifically pinpointed my kidney and liver to help enhance my performance on race day. Other time athletes use it for just overall health and to above all your time in each season is a chance to just relax and forces you to let your body rest, something almost everyone can use more of in our society.
Over the past couple of months I have seen athletes in acupuncture for hip, back, ankle, shoulder, and compartment syndrome issues, as well as chronic pain, migraines, insomnia. The list goes on and on but for most people who have tried it they will praise it’s benefits. Not that it’s a panacea for all ailments but it can be and is an important tool many carry around in their proverbial belt. Here are a few tips to know before heading to the acupuncturist for the first time.
1. Do your research – not all acupuncturists are a like. Find one that has worked with athletes before, don’t be afraid to call around and ask if you live in a city. Finding an acupuncturist you are comfortable with is key to your experience.
3. Do Not Fear the Needle – From someone who hates needles and shots, acupuncture needles are nothing to fear. A good acupuncturist will make it so you barely even feel them. Do not fear the needle!
4. Consistency – like anything acupuncture often requires several visits to feel the full benefits. Know going into it you maybe back for a couple weeks or months to help solves your ails.
5. Ask Questions – do not be afraid to ask questions. It’s important with any type of treatment you ask questions. All the acupuncturists I have gone to are happy to answer exactly why what needle goes where.
I cannot recommend community acupuncture enough to those around me. It is one of the most convenient and economical ways to add acupuncture into your life. Community acupuncture works in a cooperative way to allow acupuncture access to many people. Instead of being isolated in a room alone community acupuncture is set up with a room or series of rooms with comfortable recliners in them where multiple patients can be seen at once. It’s actually a very relaxing experience and it allows your body, not the next appointment to determine how long your session is. Don’t worry you aren’t undressed around a bunch of strangers, instead you wear something comfortable where you can roll up your sleeves to you elbows and knees. Most places offer blankets as well to drape over your legs as you rest and let the treatment do it’s thing. The whole experience is very peaceful and it’s really on your terms.
Community acupuncture operate on a sliding scale which makes it an affordable option for most. Prices at a community acupuncture center range from $15 – $50 per visit and you decide what works for you. QiWorks Community Acupuncture in Salt Lake City where I go also has a punch card option which decreases the price even more. Even for someone on a tight budget acupuncture can be affordable. To find out if there is a community acupuncturist near in your area you can search the POCA (People’s Organization of Community Acupuncture) Network.
Overall, acupuncture is a powerful tool to have in your training and racing at all levels of health and fitness. For years I heard old-wives tales about it and feared the needle. It was not until a time of desperation in my own injury that I turned to this alternative to our typical medical treatments and today I can’t imagine life without it. For me over everything else it’s a chance to have the cell phone off and just let my body go into restorative mood for at least an hour or two.
Below is a short documentary on Community Acupuncture.