Acupuncture for Athletes ‘How Acupuncture Won: Wimbledon, The Yellow Jersey and The Premier League.’
My mother was obsessed with watching sport. She was wild about Wimbledon, a football fanatic and a cricket critic. Don’t get me started on the fever that gripped our house during, the Olympics. It seems that this tradition has either a sentimental or genetic correlation – I too am an eager enthusiast.
It was difficult to rate my top three sports, but I’ve bravely committed to tennis, The Tour De France and football. (Though the AFL in Australia will always have a special place in my heart. ‘C’mon Carlton: Kings of Lygon Street’).
As I type- it’s Wimbledon, perhaps my happiest time of year for lying on the sofa in awe of athleticism. It is much harder to manage my schedule now the Tour De France began on the 6th July, a very busy week of juggling the overlap. – (mercifully the Tour does an excellent daily highlight package- thank you Ned Boulting et al).
Why Acupuncture is Gaining Momentum in Sport?
Acupuncture is used globally by the world’s top athletes (I have focused on my top three sports in this blog, but the boxer Anthony Joshua has posted videos of himself being needled.). It’s increasingly used as part of mainstream conditioning practice. Oh, and the Chinese win lots of medals, right?
By using the acupuncture points on specific meridians, it allows the blood and energy (qi) to move to the area removing the obstruction or block to create a better flow within the body. It therefore is an excellent preventive treatment to keep things moving before injury occurs.
Acupuncture is well documented for providing pain relief, aid in recovery time, relaxation and also mental focus – there are specific points that can improve this. It can address insomnia (when rest is crucial), digestion, and managing the stress that the body is under in these extreme circumstances.
Perhaps the most vital part is that it is all achieved without medication: this is crucial in modern sport. There is neither a risk to the athlete’s finely-honed system or interference with drug testing results.
What Type of Athletes Use Acupuncture?
The Open Era of tennis is hailed as producing the greatest athlete’s tennis has ever seen and the dominance of the Williams sisters, Andy Murray, Nadal, Federer and Djokovic. The fitness levels are unprecedented. It’s especially impressive with the longevity of Serena and Roger both still winning aged 37.
Djovick particularly is known for using alternative medicine and yoga and meditation in his training. He has a gluten free diet, that he believes took him from number 11 to number 1. He has an acupuncturist on his team who helped him recover from elbow surgery last year. He then proceeded to lift the Wimbledon trophy.
Andy Murray has been quoted as using acupuncture on a groin strain. His equally brilliant brother, doubles player Jamie, posted a picture of himself during a session of cupping last week. Serena has also said she is a fan of cupping for relaxation and creating blood flow to release tension from the fascia for faster recovery.
Cupping was noticeably used by swimmer Michael Phelps which brought world coverage since he swam with huge red cup marks on his back in the 2016 Olympic Games – oh and won- EVERYTHING.
The Tour De France
And here we all make a quip about ‘needles’ and the controversy especially associated around performance enhancing drugs and The Tour. Lance Armstrong was disgraced for using the wrong kind, yet Vincenzo Nibali won in 2014, using the Chinese kind- oh the irony!
The Tour De France is regarded as the world’s most gruelling sporting event for all of the reasons. Three weeks of cycling huge distances, weather extremities, falls at excessive speeds, gravel rash and many cyclists ride with broken bones (this is really rather ‘hard’ behaviour). It is seen as a huge triumph to even finish it let alone win the thing.
Team Astana has an acupuncturist who travels with them and uses an acupuncture protocol to help recovery after each day’s challenge. Some of the points used are Liv 3 (usually for pain relief combined with LI4 called ‘Pain Gate’) Sp 6 (where three powerful channels converge Ki, Sp and Liv) and Yingtang for bringing calm.
The risk of using any medication is incredibly high in cycling due to rigorous drug screens, so acupuncture can help with stomach bugs, heat stroke, headaches, constipation, colds and flu symptoms: all are common in a three-week team race.
St 36 is a much-used powerful point called ‘Three Leg Mile’ which the ancient texts says- gives you ‘three more miles’.Very useful, especially running a marathon! It works on the stomach meridian which is the centre of the body to boost endurance, immunity and qi. And for the tennis fans the Chinese do not leave out the arms with LI10 known as Arm Three mile.
When I first moved to the UK in 2003, I decided the best way to assimilate was to follow a Premier League football team (and watch East Enders). The team I chose was Arsenal because , I quite like red and the manager seemed rather serious but knowing – all-natural reasons for a team selection. It was a match made in heaven. That was the year they won the double. I spent many joyous hours supporting them with my best friend Shar and becoming very British.
Not unsurprisingly, I now discover that ‘knowing’ manager Arsene Wenger changed the face of British football by introducing previously unused techniques of acupuncture, osteopathy and a complete ban on Mars Bars (a harsh but fair- diet overhaul). He began the new training regime when he arrived in the late 1990’s. The results spoke for themselves. Other teams cottoned on and the rest is ‘alternative medicine/sporting’ history.
How can it help you?
Whether you are professional athlete, or seriously into fitness, training for a marathon or even a 10 km, acupuncture is a way to manage the rigours of training. It can prevent injury and provide a faster recovery, so training isn’t impeded. It returns you to a place of balance when you are pushing your body to the limit. In providing peak performance you need to be in peak condition.
I need to conclude now as Novak is about to be on Centre Court showing off his very beautifully acupunctured tennis elbow. Game Set and Match- Acupuncture.