Registered acupuncturist, Paige Waters, pinpoints just how the ancient technique of acupuncture can improve your health, wellbeing and running performance!
We are constantly pushing our bodies harder and faster, trying to get a better time, a longer distance or a better place than the race before. We sacrifice our sleep, our bodies and our health for the chance to accomplish these goals. As women, we also juggle these goals with family time, domestic duties and hormonal cycles. These are the modern battles we face, and as women we face them with passion and determination. However, would you refuse the chance for some help in preparing our body mentally and physically for these challenges? Acupuncture offers a natural solution.
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is one of the techniques used by Chinese medicine practitioners to prevent disease and heal illness. Fine, stainless steel needles are gently tapped into spaces between the muscle, vessels, tendons and bones called ‘acupuncture points’. These points are places of energy (or Qi – pronounced Chee) exchange and communication, and mostly lie on meridians, which connect to the internal organs. According to Chinese medicine theory, your organs can be in a state of balance, deficiency or excess.
Inserting needles at specific points on specific meridians works to correct excess or deficient energy imbalances to alleviate health complaints and maximise your constitutional strengths.
How can acupuncture effect your running?
We all know that exercise is also great for your health but I’m sure it’s no surprise that studies show that intense, extended physical exercise, psychological stress and inadequate sleep can suppress immune responses, increase chance of injury and ultimately affect exercise performance.
One of the most obvious things you will notice leaving an acupuncture treatment is the extreme state of relaxation you experience. Acupuncture reduces sympathetic drive and facilitates restorative functions. It also increases circulation and blood flow to the muscles and skin which helps heal old injuries and reduces the chance of new injuries.
Sports performance anxiety is commonly experienced by all levels of athletes and can drastically affect race performance. Acupuncturists often use an ear needle or press pellet at a point in the ear called ‘Shenmen’ which has actions that have been likened to the pharmaceutical Valium. This point can stay in place for up to five days and is particularly helpful to have put in place the day before a big race.
Acupuncture is also a great therapy for building a strong immune system. Increased exercise volume has been associated with the suppression of the immune system. Studies have found that increased mileage is a significant risk factor for upper respiratory conditions. Acupuncture increases white blood cell count and other immune parameters for up to 72 hours after the removal of the needles.
The final battle that is specific to women in race performance is the monthly fight with our bodies and our menstrual cycles. Cramping, pain, emotions, bloating and sugar cravings can affect your motivation, race program and overall performance. Acupuncture works really well to balance the energy of your liver, kidney and spleen to regulate hormones, reduce pain and settle emotions.
By incorporating regular acupuncture treatments into your training program, you can reduce your chance of injury, improve your quality of sleep, improve your immunity, alleviate menstrual complaints and reduce sports performance anxiety. Best of all, acupuncture is pain-free, medication free and has minimal side effects, especially when practiced by a qualified practitioner.
Paige Waters is a Registered Acupuncturist and Owner of The Point of Wellbeing on the Gold Coast. Paige also has a Bachelor of Exercise Science, is a beginner runner and is passionate about providing pain free and medication free healthcare.
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