By Jorga Houy, Emperor’s College Alumnus and Owner of LA Sports Acupuncture
This blog post is part of our Olympics Series on Qi. Stay tuned for more blog posts.
Every four years, the world comes together for the Olympic Games. As this is the highest level of athletic competition, training and preparation for the elite athletes is everything and the quest for an edge of any kind to push one’s training and abilities higher is at the front of every athlete, coach and trainer involved. Enter acupuncture and Oriental medicine: therapies which have been in continuous use for millennia.
There is an entire branch of Oriental medicine which today would come under the blanket of “sports medicine”. Its origin goes back to elite martial artists, who in the old days were professional bodyguards and warriors. Their lives were being constantly tested in extremely high degrees of athletic and mortal rigor.
The field of traumatology was developed by these warriors as were methods of athletic enhancement via herbal medicines and various forms of exercise. After all, these warriors were after the same sort of competitive edge sought by modern athletes. Although for the warriors, the one who had the edge was often the one who walked away with his life rather than a gold medal.
Oriental medicine then and now: From ancient warriors to modern day athletes
Much as it did for the ancient warriors of the Far East, Oriental medicine has a lot to offer for modern Olympic athletes. In fact, in countries such as China and South Korea, the Olympic teams make frequent use of acupuncture as part of their training regimens.
Acupuncture has also made inroads to athletes from various other countries as well. Dee Dee Trotter, a Team USA runner, brought her personal acupuncturist to this year’s games and high jumper Amy Acuff is not only an Olympian, but a licensed acupuncturist in Texas.
Acupuncture helps reduce healing time from injury
As athletes of any level know, training invariably at some point involves pain or injury. Working with a lot of athletes in my own practice, I have found that healing time from injuries can often be reduced, sometimes even by as much as half. Increasing blood flow to damaged tissues and optimizing immune system function are easily accomplished by acupuncture. Herbal medicine can also be of great benefit in recovering from injury.
In addition to injury recovery, Oriental medicine can be used for prevention. Injuries often are the result of imbalanced musculature and poor muscle firing patterns. This can be corrected with the right kind of training. Acupuncture can help keeping the body in balance and the muscles firing in the right sequence. As a result, a lot of injuries can be prevented and performance can be enhanced as movement will be more efficient when the prime mover muscles do their jobs correctly.
Enhancing performance with acupuncture and Qi Gong
With regards to performance enhancement, Oriental medicine has two particularly powerful tools: acupuncture and Qi Gong. Acupuncture treatment is associated with vagus nerve stimulation which is what turns off our “fight or flight” response and winds us down into a deeply relaxed state. The ability to access this deep level of relaxation is essential to balance the high levels of stimulation associated with elite athletic training.
Qi Gong, often called “Taoist yoga”, is a system of exercise involving slow, deliberate movements as well as breathing and visualization. Many Qi Gong exercises balance out the musculoskeletal system and can retrain the diaphragm for optimal breathing.
Acupuncture sports medicine: a growing field
As acupuncture and Oriental Medicine continue to gain more widespread acceptance in the US, its various fields of specialization do too. Acupuncture sports medicine is a rapidly growing field as more and more athletes, professional and recreational athletes alike, discover its injury preventative benefits as well as find that they may be able to avoid the option of surgery when they do get injured.
Jorga Houy, LAc, is an acupuncturist specializing in orthopedics, sports medicine, and pain management. Jorga received his master’s degree from Emperor’s College of Traditional Oriental Medicine in Santa Monica, California. In addition to running his own private practice clinic, he is a staff acupuncturist for the LA Derby Dolls, and a faculty member of Matrix International University. www.lasportsacupuncture.com
This blog post is part of our Olympics Series on Qi. Read another blog post in this series here.
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