Sports Injury encompasses a large area of medical concerns, usually related to musculoskeletal conditions. Basically, it covers all acute injuries and chronic ailments due to specific physical activities. It includes problems that result from physical training, martial arts, competitive sports, “weekend warriors”, outdoor activities and competitions. People that participate in these activities commonly stress or damage muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints – the areas that are used the most. Sports Injury medicine has evolved into a specific medical category that focuses on treating these injuries.
Specific Conditions Common medical diagnoses that fall under the umbrella of Sports Injuries include: medial & lateral epicondylitis, frozen shoulder, plantar fascitis, acute olecranon bursitis, acromioclavicular joint separation, rotator cuff tendonitis, osteoarthritis of all joints, meniscal tears, bicepital tenosynovitis, lumbar disc herniations, anterior & posterior cruciate ligament tears, patellofemoral syndrome, Osgood Schlatters syndrome, and more.
The following common conditions fall under the above:
- tennis elbow
- pitcher’s shoulder
- golfer’s elbow
- low back strain
- trick knee
- ankle sprain
- shin splints
- trigger finger
Acupuncture & Sports Injury
Acupuncture has a very successful record with sports injuries. Many professional sports teams have acupuncturists on staff to decrease healing times and resolve stubborn ailments. But the use of acupuncture to treat acute injuries from intense or repetitive physical activity began centuries ago. It was and still is one of the primary means of quick healing for the martial arts. Specific acupuncture styles and techniques were developed to stop pain and dramatically increase recovery time. This tradition continues today and its use has expanded into competitive athletics that result in similar injuries.
How Does Acupuncture Help?
Acupuncture is an effective treatment for Sports Injuries because it reduces pain, increases range of motion, increases recovery and healing time, and strengthens weakened parts of the body. These effects are accomplished during treatment because acupuncture:
- decreases inflammation
- reduces swelling
- relaxes muscles and relieves spasms
- decreases bruising
- lowers the body’s pain response
- improves local blood circulation to increase delivery of nutrients and removal of noxious elements
When to get Acupuncture
Acupuncture divides sports injuries into two main categories, which determine how treatment typically proceeds. Acute injuries (that happened recently) and chronic injuries (unresolved for 3 or more months).
Acute injuries need to be properly assessed before any type of treatment can begin. Most people are all too familiar with the feeling of a strain or sprain. If someone is unsure, however, it is best to get examined and properly diagnosed (possibly with the help of an X-ray or MRI) to rule out a more serious injury. Acupuncture should then begin as soon after an injury as possible for the best results.
Acupuncturists classify acute injuries as Excess conditions. An Excess condition is just what it sounds like: there is an excess physical response (too much pain) or an excess biochemical reaction (too much inflammation or swelling). Acupuncture treatment given soon after an injury occurs encourages the body to deal with and process this excess in a rapid fashion. An improvement is usually noticed within one or two treatments. If an injury is not very severe, 3-4 treatments typically resolves the condition. More serious injuries require 4 treatments before an accurate prognosis and treatment plan can be given.
Right after an acute sports injury happens it is helpful to remember the acronym RICE. Each letter stands for one of the four steps to follow immediately after an injury: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. This will help quicken recovery and provide short term relief.
Chronic injuries also need to be properly assessed before any type of treatment begins. It is important to determine if there is an underlying structural cause for a lingering injury such as a loss of cartilage, formation of scar tissue or degenerative damage of any kind. Once the complete underlying framework of the injury is understood, an acupuncture treatment plan can be devised to address both the main symptoms and their causes. This may include acupuncture treatments, Chinese herbal formulas, stretches and exercises, diet modifications and the use of liniments or balms.
Acupuncturists classify chronic sports injuries as Deficient conditions. Deficiency refers to a weakness or lack. Over time, unresolved sports injuries lead to areas losing strength, flexibility and stability. Instead of focusing on removing excesses, acupuncture for chronic conditions focuses on invigorating and strengthening specific parts of the body. This is done while also decreasing the pain that commonly accompanies most chronic sports injuries.
It is more difficult to generalize the length of treatment for chronic conditions because medications, prolonged inactivity, low morale & surgeries complicate treatment. Even so, a person should notice a positive change in his/her specific condition within 8 to 10 treatments, although many chronic injuries respond quickly to acupuncture. After which, an accurate prognosis for complete resolution of the problem can be given.