Acupuncture, Climbing and Sports Performance...
Acupuncture is a form of therapy rooted in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Oriental Medicine. Though its origin dates back thousands of years, only recently has it come to be regarded as a viable form of sports therapy in the West. As an acupuncturist and avid rock climber I am quite familiar with the pitfalls our body can experience from climbing. Most of the injuries come from overtraining and are located in our arms, shoulders and fingers, although (cheesy pun alert) belaying can prove to be a real pain in the neck too.
Acupuncture is now commonly used by many professional athletes such as Kobe Bryant, Aaron Rodgers, and even by the recent winner of the Tour de France Vincenzo Nibali who received acupuncture twice daily on the arduous 3 week long race. Here are a few reasons why acupuncture has become a staple in the self care regimen of professional athletes and why it may be able to help you heal faster, stay healthy and crush your toughest projects.
Acupuncture is an excellent way to stimulate blood flow in the body. By placing the hair-thin needles through the skin and into the fascia and muscles, a micro-wound is created. It rarely hurts and will end up initiating an immune response in the form of increased blood flow to the location, bringing vital nutrients that will speed recovery and help rid the body of unwanted inflammation.
Another form of flow that is enhanced by acupuncture is by accessing the body's Qi (pronounced CHEE). The Chinese concept of Qi in other cultures has been called Prana, Ki or Vital Energy. Today quantum physicists are saying that electromagnetic energy is the interconnecting substance that holds everything together. This Qi, or electromagnetic energy flows through specific pathways in the body and can be cultivated and perceived not only through acupuncture, but from practices such as tai chi, qi gong, meditation, yoga and martial arts. Just as a tough climbing route has a certain flow you must master before completing it, acupuncturists look to smooth the flow of the energy distribution in our bodies by unblocking areas of stagnation. The Chinese have a saying that "flowing water does not decay." To boil it down: smooth and abundant Qi flow = efficiency = optimal health and performance.
Acupuncture has been proven to relieve pain. In a recent study on 18,000 patients in the UK acupuncture had a 50% improvement on chronic pain. It has also been found to stimulate the body's release of endorphins into the blood stream as well as other natural pain killers such as adenosine. At least once a week, I have someone tell me that they feel like they are floating in their chair or that they want to break out in the giggles which we fondly refer to here as an 'acupuncture high'.
World class climber Sam Elias said "I do acupuncture, I don't know how it works but it does." Acupuncture is a subtle practice that has virtually no side effects except for increased energy and relaxation. When you receive acupuncture your body will relax and access the benefits of the parasympathetic nervous system which will send blood to your organs for nourishment, lower your heart rate and blood pressure and allow your digestive tract to function more efficiently. This is a great way to counteract the damage to our bodies from daily stress which initiates a sympathetic nervous system or 'fight or flight' response.
By accessing an 'acupuncture high' more often your mind and body will be more relaxed which will allow you to think more clearly and perform your best. Melissa Arnot holds the record of non-Sherpa women with 4 summits of Everest and she uses acupuncture and massage once a week for 6 weeks prior to any big climbing trip because she says "it prevents sprains, strains, and tendinitis."
Where to get affordable acupuncture
If you've always wanted to try acupuncture but don't want to spend $100+ to do so, look into community acupuncture. At Shasta Community Acupuncture we offer treatments on a sliding scale of $15 - $40 where you choose what to pay. We are located in Redding, California. To find a Community Acupuncture clinic in your area click here. We make it affordable so we can spread the benefits of this time tested medical practice to everyone and so that you can afford to come as much as you need.
For more info on acupuncture's stimulation of adenosine: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/may/30/acupuncture-pain-relief-adenosine-mice
For more info on the study proving acupuncture's relief of chronic pain: http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/story/2012/09/10/study-placebo-or-not-acupuncture-helps-with-pain/57735412/1
Article on Sam Elias in Outsider Magazine mentioning his use of acupuncture: http://www.outsideonline.com/1913811/pro-tips-climber-sam-elias-nutrition-training-and-overcoming-pain
Article on Melissa Arnot mentioning her use of acupuncture: http://www.outsideonline.com/1915551/pro-tips-climber-melissa-arnot-pushing-herself-and-treating-herself
For information on the People's Organization of Community Acupuncture (POCA): They started the community Acupuncture movement in 2002 in Portland, OR and now there are over 150 clinics across the country offering affordable, effective acupuncture:www.pocacoop.com