Kaufman: What is acupuncture sports medicine?

Integrating traditional Chinese acupuncture with modern sports medicine achieves more effective results when treating pain and injuries.

Acupuncture for sports medicine is a style of acupuncture that integrates traditional Chinese acupuncture with modern sports medicine practices in order to achieve more effective results when treating pain and injuries.

Integrating these two systems allows us to draw from the respective strengths of both medical systems, for the ultimate benefit of the patient. Western medical orthopedic assessments, such as identifying postural imbalances, range of motion testing, manual muscle testing, as well as the results of MRIs, CT scans, and X-rays allow us to precisely locate the site of injury as well as identify the cause and extent of the injury. The Chinese medicine system gives insight into the nature of a condition as well as any underlying internal imbalances in the body that may be contributing to an injury and hindering its recovery. By combining both eastern and western methods, we can activate the body’s healing mechanisms to their fullest and get better long term treatment results for our patients.

Acupuncture for sports medicine involves directly treating the site of the injury with local points. We do this in order to increase circulation to the area, release tight muscles and soft tissue, relieve inflammation, and activate local healing. The reason for treating the site of the injury is simple-the body responds to trauma or injury with an inflammatory response. We use Western anatomy and physiology to assess the injury and determine which body tissues are involved. An injury can occur in many different areas: on the shallowest level, the skin, fascia and surface of the muscles can be affected. In the intermediate layers, injury can occur in the belly of the muscle, the tendons, and the ligaments. On the deepest level, the periosteum, bone, and joint capsule can be injured. An acupuncturist in sports medicine can treat all of these types of injures using different needling techniques and depths.

In Western medicine, sports injuries are typically viewed as strictly musculo-skeletal in nature. This reflects our Western scientific process of reductionism, the idea that a complex system can be completely understood in terms of its simpler parts or components. However, in Chinese medicine we never remove a symptom from its wider context. While the injury may be to the knee, that knee is still connected to the rest of the body, and whether that body is young or old, fit or in poor health, are factors which of course will affect the healing process.  It is rare for anyone to be in perfect health, even a top athlete.

Our overall health can affect the strength and vitality of our tissues (muscles, tendons, bones) as well as the body’s ability to perform necessary functions (circulation, metabolism, immune system). By identifying the deeper more internal imbalances of the body, we are also identifying hidden factors that may be contributing to the injury and hindering recovery. So in addition to local treatment of the injured tissues, we also treat other parts of the body to influence overall functioning and promote homeostasis. This is one of the key differences between the Chinese medicine style of acupuncture versus the type of acupuncture called IMS (intramuscular stimulation) performed by other therapists.

I began specializing in acupuncture for sports medicine in 2008 when I first came to the Okanagan. Because the vast majority of my patients were coming to me for pain conditions, it made sense for me to develop my skills in this area and I have attended numerous courses. Since that time, I have seen dramatic improvements in my clinical results. Combining traditional Chinese medical wisdom with modern medical insights can yield very effective results, particularly in the realm of sports medicine.