Better, Faster, Stronger is the athlete’s mantra. With sophisticated training plans dialed-in by the very best scientific research, and nutritional protocols proprietary to teams or athletes themselves, training professionals and athletes alike are consistently on the lookout for the next great thing to give their athletes even the slightest edge over the competition.
Greater value is seen in a longer stride or a stronger, faster reach which can be the difference between finding yourself on the podium, or not placing at all. Improvement in stride and reach is largely dependent on flexibility. The value of flexible muscles and full range of joint motion is readily appreciated by those experiencing stiff, aching, short or tight muscles. Within an athletic environment, where details matter, flexibility should not be forgotten.
Flexibility training has become an ever important piece to the elite training puzzle. Stretching regimens are practiced by professional athletes (as well as those who exercise for recreation) and are generally included in most training programs. Interestingly enough, some of the physiological effects of stretching are similar to the physiological effects of acupuncture. Recent research demonstrates the effectiveness of both stretching and acupuncture in achieving muscular relaxation and increasing pain tolerance. Acupuncture appears to increase local blood circulation, improves muscular electrical activity, and is well documented for increasing pain tolerance.
The improvement in blood flow and more acute neuromuscular awareness make acupuncture an obvious choice in recovering from high intensity training and injuries. Acupuncture’s specific characteristics also make ita unique drug- and symptom-free way to improve performance of the neuromusculoskeletal system. For these reasons, acupuncture is quickly becoming a popular treatment among athletes to aide in recovery and increase performance.
The pain-relieving effects experienced by those receiving acupuncture works through influencing pain perception in the spinal cord, as well as activating several cortical regions of the brain, including the somatosensory area, hypothalamus and limbic system. Research suggests that acupuncture influences descending nociceptive (pain signaling) structures. This understanding sheds light on the effectiveness of acupuncture in offering non-opioid and non-addictive pain care, which makes acupuncture a particularly attractive recovery aide and performance enhancer for athletes looking to push themselves to the next level.