Kobe Bryant does it. So does McKayla Moroney. Dee Dee Trotter even brought someone to London with her in order to continue her treatments during the Olympic games. What’s their secret to functioning at the professional athletic level? Acupuncture.
Once only thought of as a last resort for people with low back pain, people with conditions varying from autoimmune diseases to generalized anxiety are now turning to acupuncture for help. This is especially true for active individuals. Athletes of all levels are embracing the benefits that acupuncture produces: quicker recovery time after strenuous workouts, help healing from injuries, less anxiety during competitions, and the list goes on and on.
Here are five ways that regular acupuncture treatments can help improve your athletic performance:
It relaxes tight muscles.
If you asked me to give you a single reason why all athletes should get acupuncture, this would be my top choice. Tight muscles shorten in length and result in restricted range of motion. Pushing yourself to the limit with limited mobility is a recipe for injury, pain, and eventually time-consuming rehabilitation. While acupuncture has great ability to treat injuries, its best utilization is to prevent the injury before it occurs.
It relieves pain.
Acupuncture causes tiny micro traumas that stimulate the body’s natural painkilling response. The nervous system signals to the brain to release small amounts of pain-relieving chemicals (such as endorphins, norepinephrine, and enkephalin) that can be 10-100 times stronger than morphine!
It increases circulation.
Acupuncture increases the amount of nitric oxide in the body[i]. Nitric Oxide causes the blood vessels to relax and to widen, thereby opening up the arteries. This allows better blood flow to the heart, lungs, muscles, and everything in between. Increased circulation equals increased oxygenation of cells, therefore allowing for increased athletic performance.
It stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system.
While we no longer live in a world where we get chased by bears on a regular basis, we do live in a world full of high stress. And guess what? Our bodies aren’t very good at differentiating between the two worlds. We continuously tax our sympathetic nervous system (our fight or flight response) and rarely give our parasympathetic nervous system a chance to do its job (rest and digest). This can eventually result in adrenal fatigue and can take a toll on your ability to push your body to its physical limits. Acupuncture sessions encourage parasympathetic nervous system activity - a perfect addition to an athlete’s rest day.
It increases mental clarity and focus.
People who receive regular acupuncture state that they have more energy during the day, sleep better at night, and have an all over reduction in anxiety. This allows for better mental clarity and focus. As any competitor will tell you, mental clarity and focus is equally as important as strength and endurance during athletic competitions. Your body can only bring so much to the competition floor. Your ability to focus on the task at hand and remove any extraneous distractions directly correlates to your performance.
So there you have it. If you have hit a plateau in your atheltic performance or are looking for an extra edge on game day, try acupuncture. It will give you the boost you’re looking for.
[i] Responses of Nitric Oxide-cGMP Release in Acupuncture Point to Electroacupuncture in Human Skin In Vivo Using Dermal Microdialysis. In Microcirculation, 2009 May, 26:1-10
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