This summer cycling enthusiasts watched Vincenzo Nibali win the Tour De France, winning four stages of the tour, including three brutal mountain stages. As you know, elite athletes such as cyclists need to be at the top of their game. They depend upon their bodies to perform well under adverse,  stressful conditions.  What many of you might not know is that the Astana team includes acupuncture as part of its recovery protocol.

The basic premise behind acupuncture is that life force energy or Qi circulates throughout the body, in channels called meridians. These meridians are associated with blood vessels and permeate the organs and tissues. Health occurs when there is an uninterrupted flow of Qi. Pain is caused by a blockage in the flow of Qi and Blood. Acupuncture needling removes this blockage and promotes the free movement of Qi and Blood.

Another Olympic athlete who have used acupuncture are Daniel Kowalski, who has Olympic Gold, Silver and Bronze medals in swimming. You can watch a video of him here: http://youtu.be/wsDFQoQLduQ. He calims that acupuncture helps him recover from shoulder injuries, experience a deeper, more restful sleep and improves his general well being.

The basic premise behind acupuncture is that life force energy or Qi circulates throughout the body, in channels called meridians. These meridians are associated with blood vessels and permeate the organs and tissues. Health occurs when there is an uninterrupted flow of Qi. Pain is caused by a blockage in the flow of Qi and Blood. Acupuncture needling removes this blockage and promotes the free movement of Qi and Blood.

Five Ways Acupuncture Increases Athletic Performance

  1. Pain Relief
  2. Reduces inflammation and promotes faster recovery
  3. Reduces stress and anxiety
  4. Improves blood flow
  5. Promotes a good night sleep

1. Pain Relief

The insertion of an acupuncture needle causes a minute tear in the area of pain. This activates a self-healing mechanism which promotes anti-inflammatory processes and tissue repair. Muscle contraction, as in a repetitive strain injury or an acute trauma, leads to low oxygen as a result of reduced blood circulation. Acupuncture needling is able to relax the muscle, restore normal blood circulation and bring energy to the painful area. This is much more effective then the use of pain killers.

2. Acupuncture Reduces inflammation and promotes faster recovery

Many of us have taken cortisone shots to treat sports related injuries. A study in the Lanceletreported that people who received cortisone shots had fast pain relief (due to the suppression of the immune response) but a much slower rate of recovery versus people who did nothing or underwent physical therapy. What is not commonly known is that cortisones prevent cartilage and joint repair.

3. Acupuncture Reduces stress and anxiety

Earlier we were talking about Qi flow and how it can cause pain when it is blocked. There are other factors apart from injury that can slow down the flow of Qi. These include emotions such as anxiety, stress or fear. Imagine being in a situation where the stakes are high, you ned to perform your best, but your mind is clear, focused and relaxed in the moment. This state of effortless effort is can be attained through the application of certain acupuncture points.

4. Acupuncture increases blood flow to a constricted area

Acupuncture increases blood flow to a constricted area, bringing oxygen and nutrients to the muscles and removing any toxins build up from extreme exercise such as a long day of cycling.

5. Getting a good night’s sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep is crucial to recovering fro intense training sessions and competitions. Acupuncture treatments are great for giving a good night’s sleep and reducing stress-related insomnia. Patients report getting a deeper sleep and feeling more rested when awakening. The quality and amount of sleep athletes get is often the key to winning. During sleep production of glycogen and carbohydrates takes place, as well as rebuilding muscle tissues. If sleep is cut short or not deep enough, increased levels of stress hormones and cortisol will lead to poor athletic performance.