Acupuncture/dry needling is a critical adjunct to health and athletic performance of athletes. It reduces the likelihood of injury and reinjury. It helps maintain the level of performance needed to reach athletic goals. And when injury occurs, it speeds healing.
Athletes are not necessarily healthier than the general population. A recent article in the American Journal of Sports Medicine reported on the “health-related quality of life,” or HRQoL, of 232 middle-aged, former NCAA Division 1 athletes with an age-matched group of “nonathletes who participated in recreational activity, club sports, or intramurals while attending college. . . . Study participants responded to the questions [about] sleep, anxiety, depression, fatigue, pain interference, physical function, and satisfaction with participation in social roles.”
The study found that the former high-octane athletes “have decreased HRQoL compared with nonathletes. Sports encourage physical activity, which help promote a healthy lifestyle. . . . The demands of Division I athletics may result in injuries that linger into adulthood and possibly make participants incapable of staying active as they age.”
Untreated injuries linger, with long-term consequences. Because 50% of body mass is soft tissue -- muscles, fascia, tendons/ligaments, and organs -- almost all physical injuries involve soft tissue. Acupuncture/dry needling is a soft-tissue therapy which rebalances the microcirculation at the site of injury, enabling the body to heal and regenerate injured tissue.
Long-term injury reduces high-level function. The stress of competitive sports leads almost inevitably to injury unless the athletes takes steps to maintain peak condition: proper rest and diet, the setting of intelligent and realistic performance goals, and the use of skilled intervention when needed.
“When needed” does not mean “when injured.” An athlete’s fascia, muscles, tendons and ligaments can actually be in a state of “pre-injury” because long-term, peak training keeps these structures in a state of constant stress. In this unhealthy situation, a step, stretch or jump that would not injure a healthy person can lead to excessive loading and injury. This is as true for the man or woman who sits hours a day at a desk and then expects to play competitive basketball on the weekends as it is for the runner who trains daily.
The best way for an athlete to stay healthy is to minimize the likelihood of injury. Regular acupuncture/dry needling will relieve the long-term stress on muscles and soft tissues, help them regenerate, and reduce the preloading that characterizes many sports injuries. And when injuries do occur, the same underlying physiological response to the needle will help speed recovery.