Article by Stephane Pépin, acupuncturist
Although the majority of runners who consult in acupuncture for the first time do so for an injury or pain, many soon realize that acupuncture and Chinese medicine can offer them much more than just relieving their pain or accelerating their healing. The benefits that acupuncture offers to runners are numerous.
1. Strengthen your immune system
Intense training, overwork, stress and fatigue can drastically weaken your immune system. Acupuncture can strengthen the immune system to prevent respiratory infections, such as cold and flu; it helps the body fight off infections by increasing white blood cells. In Chinese medicine, we say it is always better to prevent than to treat. We recommend treatments every two weeks during periods of intense training, stress, overwork and season changes.
2. Correct muscle imbalances:
When there are muscle imbalances, some of the muscles being too thight while others are inhibited or too loose, it causes a chain reaction that can lead to pain in muscles, tendons and joints. When muscles do not work in full synergy, your potential for a high performance is limited and the risk of injury is increased, especially during intense training season.
Acupuncture releases overstretched muscles by treating active trigger points, it activates inhibited or weak muscles by stimulating the motor points, and releases tensions in the myofascial tissue (the membranes that surround and connect the muscles). It can reduce stress and tensions in irritated areas and correct imbalances to lower the risk of injury and achieve higher levels of athletic performance.
3. Accelerate recovery and healing
Acupuncture improves blood circulation, helping to provide the substances needed to heal wounds and remove debris (dead or damaged cells). It is particularly beneficial for the healing of tendon and ligament injuries, which are less irrigated with blood than muscles. Therapeutic Tuina massage and Chinese herbs can also help to treat wounds and injuries, especially when more conventional therapies offer no results.
4. Fight against chronic stress
Chronic stress, one of our biggest enemies in today’s life. We already know it contributes to many health problems, but also, as athletes know, stress affects performance as well. Animal studies conducted at Georgetown University (1) have shown that acupuncture causes changes in the hormones associated with stress and these changes can last for days.
5. Improve your sleep
Acupuncture is a great way to promote a quality sleep, which is necessary for runners and athletes in other disciplines. Sleep disorders affect 40% of Canadians (2) and play a role in many health problems. A pill can help you fall asleep more easily or getting a less interrupted sleep, but it will not address the root causes of insomnia. People suffer from sleep disorders because of various reasons; that is why choosing a holistic approach such a acupuncture to treat the root causes and help you with your specific needs in mind is so important.