Acupuncture and Running
Along with some colleagues from the Bridge Centre for Natural Health, I recently took an exploratory foray into the world of running, providing pre & post-race treatments at the Wilne 10k road race. This annual event is popular with runners of all abilities as it is fast, flat and traffic-free, passing through the pleasant Derbyshire countryside. We arrived with a gazebo, deckchairs, blankets, treatment supplies and 6 eager members of the Bridge Centre team. Our aim was to offer mini-treatments suitable for runners including acupressure, reflexology, cuppingand gua sha.
As soon as the ‘man on the mic’ suggested that runners suffering from aches, pains or sore muscles should come over and have a word, we had a steady stream of customers keen to try us out. We had all sorts of injuries and problems presenting to us, including groin strain, painful quads/hamstrings/calves, shoulder pain, pulled muscles, etc. I think we surprised ourselves a little in terms of how we were able to find an appropriate technique from our tool kit for each person that approached us.
In preparing for this event, I did a little research into how acupuncture specifically can help runners. It was interesting to read that in Japan, acupuncture is offered post-race as widely as sports massage is in this country, and that both elite and amateur runners tend to use acupuncture on a regular basis to support their running health and muscle fibre flexibility.
Acupuncture is helpful both in terms of treating injuries and in preventing them. Once an injury has occurred, acupuncture helps to relax the muscle and reduce inflammation and pain. It does this by promoting an increase in blood flow to the injured area which helps to speed up the healing process and allows the body to focus on getting better rather than being restricted by pain. And of course, runners never like to be told to stop running!
From a Chinese Medicine perspective, injury or pain reflects a disruption to the flow of Qi (vital energy) coursing through the body. Acupuncture helps to relieve such obstructions and restore a smooth flow of energy, enabling the body to heal better. Through the use of needles, acupuncture is able to access deep muscle tissue without aggravating the surface muscle, which maximises the treatment effect.
As is often the case, runners may initially give acupuncture a try when injury strikes, but then come to notice that it is having a beneficial effect on their general health and wellbeing, which all contributes to stronger running. For example, runners who have regular acupuncture may notice a strengthening of their immune system, a reduction in stress/tension/anxiety and better quality sleep.
One particular benefit to me as an acupuncturist in taking part in this event, was the discovery of an extra acupuncture point (known as the “Runner’s Point”), which can be used in a wide array of typical running injuries such as tight or strained calf muscles, Achilles tendonitis, shin splints and plantar fasciitis. It is thought to affect a broader area across the lower leg muscles than any other acupuncture point and I will certainly be adding this to my repertoire!
So, all in all, a great day was had by runners and therapists alike and we plan to have a bigger presence at future races in the local area over the coming months.