It’s October in Chicago! Not only are leaves changing color and falling but October also brings the Chicago Marathon. This year it’s on October 8th (just around the corner). Like most years, I have many patients who are running the marathon and I’ve helped them as they trained to maximize health and minimize injury. I really enjoy working on athletes – especially ones that are working hard on training for intense events like marathons, because as awesome and important exercise is it is also very hard on the body. I used to believe that athletes did not experience much pain but I’ve learned that most of them just push themselves through it, then have an injury, then reach out for help. There is a better way – using Chinese medicine to support your system through the training and event process to minimize pain, injury and illness – so you perform better and enjoy the experience.
How can acupuncture and Chinese medicine help athletes?
- While training, acupuncture and herbs are used to reduce inflammation, address any injuries (think tendonitis, muscle sprain and strain, joint pain/injuries, low back pain, neck pain) and support rapid healing. Because most of us sit all day, even long distance runners tend to have weak gluteal muscles which leads to low back pain and most likely tight quadratus lumborum and psoas muscles. Acupuncture can release these tight muscles and help strengthen the gluteus medius. This is the most common pattern I see with back pain for sure. If a muscle is sprained or strained, my job is to reduce inflammation and create a treatment plan for quick healing with herbs and supplements tailored for you.
- Reduce inflammation and pain with cupping and gua sha. These two techniques stimulate the muscles to release any waste matter and reduce tension and pain. You might remember Michael Phelps’ cupping marks in the last summer Olympics? Lots of professional athletes as well as pop stars have spoken out about using cupping for health. Interested in cupping? It’s included in your acupuncture treatment, if warranted, when you come in for an appointment.
- Post event acupuncture treatment focuses on helping the body heal – and addressing any depletion caused by extreme exercise. In many countries, acupuncture is as common as massage as a post event treatment for runners.
- I’m about to leave for California at the end of the month to complete my last weekend of training in the Sports Medicine Apprenticeship program with Whitfield Reaves. This 60 hour program has helped me hone my expertise with treating pain as well as athletes and I’m excited to continue to learn more. Along with this program, I’ve completed two weekend acupuncture seminars with Whitfield (an expert in the field of acupuncture for athletes with more than 30 years experience) in Minnesota.
- After strenuous exercise, some people fall ill. Running 26 miles is no small feat – and feels great to complete. The body after the event can suddenly feel overwhelmingly tired and out of gas. This depletion, coupled with the change of the season and fall allergies, can create the perfect storm for acute illness to strike. Acupuncture treatment post – event focuses on helping calm the nervous system, rest the physical body, and strengthen the immune system to prevent an acute infection from taking hold.
Good luck to all those participating in the marathon this year! Now’s the time to schedule your treatment for the week after the marathon.