Running is something that people do to keep their bodies healthy. But as with any physical activity, there can be pitfalls to avoid. When it comes to runners, things like sprains, strains, aches and pains are all too common. And they usually involve the ankles, knees or legs because those are the tools that runners use.
For most minor running injuries, some rest and heat or ice can be helpful. But occasionally there are issues that just don’t seem to go away and can impede a runner’s ability to train and get back on track. Things like plantar fasciitis, pateliofemoral syndrome (aka “runner’s knee”) and sciatica are all issues that may take more than just some rest to correct. This is where modalities like acupuncture can be very beneficial.
Acupuncture is a component of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that involves inserting hair-thin needles into the skin at specific points, which when stimulated, promote the body’s natural ability to heal itself. And while most runners seek out acupuncture as a way to treat an ache, pain or injury, many find that regular acupuncture treatments can actually improve their running by restoring balance and energy throughout the body. Here are seven ways that acupuncture can help with running injuries.
Acupuncture reduces inflammation. Inflammation is
common to running injuries. Inflammation is typically
caused by trauma or repetitive motion to the area. Inflammation occurs when cortisol levels are elevated and studies show that acupuncture can decrease cortisol levels very effectively, thus decreasing inflammation.
Acupuncture decreases swelling. Swelling is another common symptom of running injuries. It occurs when increased movement of fluid and white blood cells rush to the area that is inflamed. The swelling can remain for several days. But specific acupuncture points can actually help decrease the swelling, restoring proper fluid circulation to the injured area, also decreasing
the time it takes to heal.
Acupuncture promotes circulation. When the injured area is swollen and inflamed, proper circulation of blood and other bodily fluids will be limited. Specific acupoints have been shown to increase circulation throughout the body. And by placing needles around the affected area, it signals the body to send healing to that targeted area.
Acupuncture can correct muscle imbalances. When muscles become imbalanced, they can cause a chain reaction that results in muscle, tendon and joint pain. By utilizing motor points in the affected muscles, a release is elicited and the muscle can return to its correct position, which decreases stress on the injured area.
Acupuncture improves sleep. For runners, with or without injuries, sleep is vital. In order to be strong as a runner, the body needs time to heal in between each run. The CDC reports that nearly 10 percent of all Americans suffer from chronic insomnia and this includes runners. The benefit of acupuncture versus a sleeping pill is that acupuncture is customized to the person, treating the root cause and allowing the runner to get the quality sleep they need.
Acupuncture relieves pain. Runners tend to be very health conscious and taking pain relievers can come with some not so healthy side effects that can impede the runner’s ability to perform. Acupuncture relieves pain very effectively with no negative side effects. Acupuncture helps the nervous system produce painkilling chemicals and studies have confirmed this, which is why the World Health Organization endorses acupuncture for pain relief.
Acupuncture can relieve chronic stress. Stress of any kind, emotional or physical, can undermine the performance of a runner and cause all kinds of health issues. A recent study at Georgetown University showed that acupuncture suppressed stress-related hormone production and the effects lasted for up to four days. Think about that when you’re training.
If you’re one of the many weekend warriors and backyard athletes that use running as your release, then having a licensed acupuncturist on speed dial, might be a great way for you to stay healthy. Give it a try. You might be pleasantly surprised how amazing you feel in as little as one to