So how does it work? From a Western medical perspective, acupuncture creates a small amount of inflammation at the needle site, increasing blood and lymph flow to the tissue and bringing needed nutrients for healing the microscopic muscle tears that result from exercise, as well as taking away the waste products of metabolism.
But that’s only the beginning of the story. In Chinese medical theory, imbalances in your qi can predispose you to physical injuries and muscle tightness. Regular acupuncture treatments seek to bring you back in balance, nourishing your muscles and helping your sinews and tendons to become supple.
In addition to the 12 main acupuncture meridians (think of rivers of energy moving up and down your body in specific pathways with acupuncture points dotted all along them), there are “sinew channels”. These channels have a relationship with the main meridians, but run more superficial to them- they have a lot in common with what we normally think of as fascia, or connective tissue.
So what is fascia? Think of an entirely interconnected web of thin, strong, stretchy, pliable tissue that encloses your organs, muscle groups, muscle fibers, tendons, and ligaments. While your bones provide structure, and your muscles move your bones, your connective tissue is what makes all this system work the way it’s supposed to: holding everything in the right place while allowing for movement. When there are injuries or restrictions to the fascia, you will often experience pain and restriction of movement.
Acupuncture and manual therapy (Myofascial Release, Deep Tissue massage, gua sha, and cupping) work beautifully together to free up this stuck fascia while releasing restrictions in the corresponding sinew channels. Results that everyone can see are decreased pain and increased mobility. What this translates to for athletes is more energy in general, quicker recovery from injury, and better body mechanics and functional movement- all of which lead to improved performance in their given sport.