Use of Acupuncture in Sports Medicine: Pain Relief, Relaxation, and Adhesion Treatment II
Updated: Sep 30
By Dr. 王凱平
Case Study: Shoulder Injuries in Baseball
If acupuncture is performed correctly, it can be a great method for muscle and soft tissue treatment. For example, the shoulder is a common area of pain and injury for pitchers, and pitchers often experience tightness, soreness, weakness, and tendonitis in their biceps.
Another easily injured muscle is the supraspinatus, a rotator cuff muscle that is responsible for stabilizing the shoulder. Repeated injuries over long periods of time may cause chronic tendonitis, which may lead to adhesion, scarring, and tendon calcification. These can all cause pain, limited range of motion, and influence movements. Whether it’s bicep tightness or supraspinatus tendonitis, acupuncture can be used to relax specific muscles and relieve pain. Where there is already adhesion and scarring, acupuncture can also be used as a treatment. Of course, more complicated shoulder issues can’t be solved with a single type of treatment, but rather must be accompanied by a complete treatment and training regimen. For example, physical therapists can perform muscle relaxation and improve joint range of motion, platelet-rich plasma (PRP) prolotherapy can stimulate local tissue repair, Flexi-Bar exercises can help facilitate control of specific muscle groups, and trainers and coaches can help improve core stability and adjust pitching motions to decrease risk of injury.
Acupuncture Risks and Precautions
Are there any situations where acupuncture is not appropriate? Generally, the most common side effects of acupuncture are dizziness and fainting. Similar to motion sickness, those who experience these symptoms during acupuncture often have preexisting health conditions; only a small portion is caused by overstimulation during acupuncture. Usually resting for a period of time will clear up any side effects. In more dangerous situations, sudden fainting may lead to head injuries. Acupuncture is not recommended for those that are overtired, weak, hungry, or otherwise in poor health. During treatment, patients should communicate regularly with their doctor regarding sensations in order to prevent overstimulation, and doctors should immediately be notified at the first instance of dizziness. Having someone accompany you during treatment is best, as they can help to support you if you feel dizzy.
Please remember that acupuncture is not a cure-all, and sometimes other treatment methods are needed. For example, torn ligaments require stabilization and repair treatment, and at most, acupuncture can provide local pain relief during the acute stage. Acupuncture is also not as effective for fractures, serious nerve compression, or nerve injuries.
Modern Issues in Chinese Medicine
As a sports medicine doctor licensed in both Chinese and Western medicine, I feel that there are many areas where traditional Chinese medicine treatments can be used in sports medicine. For example, bone traumatology can provide immediate relief for the arms, legs, head, neck, and spine, as well as for dislocations. Chinese internal medicine and traditional Chinese medicine are areas that will provide opportunities for future interdisciplinary collaboration, but the lack of information regarding banned substances in sports is still an issue.
The main problem is communication because the logic used in Western and Chinese medicine is very different. Although I often use Western medicine and easily understandable methods to explain Chinese medicine, it doesn’t mean that others can completely explain how it works. Due to its long history and vast scope, Chinese medicine has a unique thought process and operative fabric. This uniqueness is hard to communicate through writing and makes large-scale research difficult. However, these are all problems that can be dealt with in the future.
Whether in sports medicine or other disciplines, Chinese medicine has the potential to be more broadly used. Hopefully this article can help others to understand the principles of acupuncture, as well as the prospects and challenges facing traditional Chinese medicine.
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