In this introduction to acupuncture treatment for injuries, the term injuries can be taken to include all physical trauma, whether caused by playing sport, accidents, falls etc. On the sports front in particular, acupuncture is used by the British Olympic team, the British Rugby team, and many Premier League football teams, because it allows them to return to training more quickly.
Double-Olympic champion Rebecca Adlington, says acupuncture has helped her throughout her career, having received acupuncture for a shoulder injury among other things. Retired Olympic heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis-Hill, says “I’ve had acupuncture after training injuries, just to get deep into the muscle. It works really well.” Chris Hoy, Olympic cycling champion, has used acupuncture for both injury treatment and prevention, describing it as an integral part of his physical therapy routine. Whilst he was an England batsman, Kevin Pietersen had acupuncture to help with injury. Former British tennis number one Tim Henman says,“When I’ve had muscle soreness or tightness in my lower back, feet and elbows, acupuncture has been very good.”
In the military arena, a full-time acupuncture consultant reports to the US Air Force Surgeon General, ensuring use is made of all the experience gained by the USAF using acupuncture to help with injuries sustained during campaigns in recent years.
Injuries are of two broad types:
(1) Acute injuries result from sudden incidents eg. spraining your ankle walking over uneven ground, being badly tackled in football, or suffering a whiplash injury when hit from behind in a car. These benefit from prompt assessment, and a few acupuncture sessions spaced closely together and started as soon as possible, can be extremely helpful.
(2) Chronic injuries on the other hand, have persisted for weeks or months, and usually result from the repetitive application of forces to the same part of the body; tennis elbow and cyclists’ knee problems are common examples from sport, but there are many occupations which require repetitive movements or use of a particular tool or body joint all day long. These injuries essentially stem from overuse and/or overload of the affected area, so rest is a crucial component of treatment. Acupuncture in this case may be required for a little longer, depending on the severity of the condition, but sessions can be more widely spaced, say a week apart.
Research shows acupuncture can promote the healing of injuries by providing pain relief, breaking down scar tissue, and reducing swelling, bruising and inflammation. In the sports arena, it has also been shown to promote more rapid recovery after training sessions.
Below, you will find a selection of research papers, which have looked at the usefulness of acupuncture for injuries.