Wondering if acupuncture is the right fit for you? Here are five reasons to consider adding it to your training and what you can expect as a first timer.
1. Acupuncture is a proven and tested method of healing. Acupuncture is a healing method with more than thousands of years of application as an important part traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Chinese medicine has been practiced as a primary mode of health care to millions in the East, making it far more of a “mainstream” medicine than Western medicine.
2. Acupuncture addresses the source of the malady or condition. Acupuncture in its basic sense involves a thin needle piercing the skin at any of hundreds of points on the body. The points of access for these needles relate to meridians or channels as they are referred to which correspond to a particular organ in the body, which addresses any imbalance that can potentially create pain, discomfort or illness. This very method of sourcing provides a vast departure from Western medicine, which strives to alleviate pain — or the symptom — often in the form of a temporary fix, i.e. prescription drugs and injections.
3. Acupuncture is drug free. For the active person this treatment is a more desirable alternative to traditional drug therapies. For one, acupuncture is accessible in independent clinics and hospitals. Furthermore, it does not compromise participation in competition because of the absence of drugs. Acupuncture is safe from overdose and is available almost anywhere. The price point is manageable and payable by many HSAs and FSAs. If you are the unfortunate trypanophobic soul — meaning you are afraid of needles — start with a mere one needle session. The provider will make it so that you ease into more needles with more sites when you ready. You dial up the progression rate. The patient is very active in driving the intensity of the therapies, which is yet another advantage of Eastern medicine.
4. Acupuncture is a minimally invasive treatment. The biggest concern for many considering acupuncture treatment is whether it will hurt. The pain is truly minimal and quick. The breadth of the needle is very thin and the entry is most often less than an inch in depth. Most athletes once injured and/or sidelined are willing to put up with a little prick to seek out relief as well as a return to our beloved three sports. For first timers, make sure you are not overly fatigued (go on an easy training day), well slept and the stomach has a little something in it. Then, just relax, mind the doctor and let thousands of years of therapy heal you. Disclaimer: Acupuncture is not unlike triathlon in the sense that you may become addicted to its nonintrusive healing nature.
5. Acupuncture has universal application. Whether used to rebalance energy or to stimulate the body’s own healing, acupuncture can be used to manage acute or chronic degenerative diseases, and can be offered to old, young, active, sedentary, sick or well individuals. Many Western practitioners are including acupuncture as part of a holistic approach to a variety of traditional treatments to relieve discomfort and accelerate recovery. I personally sought out acupuncture as a remedy originally for hamstring pain years ago. Acupuncture provided relief for my injury as part of a comprehensive protocol overall. Additionally acupuncture offered me so much more. My doctor would apply needles to additional points as well which offered relaxation and stress relief.
Ready to Give it a Try?
- Ask for recommendations from others. Seek references or best yet get results from someone you know and trust. I personally received my first acupuncture treatment from my trusted professional chiropractor. I am now receiving acupuncture therapy as a wellness strategy and find it wildly successful to do what I enjoy, which includes triathlon, cooking, dancing and tennis. It keeps me physically and emotionally balanced as well as prevents compensations from misaligning my strides and movement patterns.
- Have some knowledge of the provider and interview them. Ask the provider for a certificate of completion from an accredited institution with an endorsement from the Board of Health from their respective state. My own experience and success with my own athletes, as well as my never ending desire to serve others, brought me to Atlantic School of Oriental Medicine Fort Lauderdale, Florida, as a first year student.
- Know what to expect. Position yourself on a comfortable padded table. The doctor will clean the sites and then apply the sterile needles with a quick and gentle tap. He or she may then position a heat lamp over a section of the needles and then leave you to relax. The magic of the needles begins as the healing presence of your body’s qi (natural energy) is stimulated. After 15 minutes or so the needles will then be removed. Any bleeding of the local site is minimal, if present at all.
Make an investment in your fit and active future by incorporating acupuncture in your health and training regimen.
Sandy Bikus is a USA Triathlon Certified Coach. Learn more at swimbikusrun.com or follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.