Acupuncture is frequently and effectively used to treat painful sports injuries, including tight or sore muscles that may result from exercise. There are many different acupuncture styles and techniques used to treat various conditions.
One technique that is sometimes incorporated into an acupuncture treatment and found to be helpful in the sports population is myofascial or trigger-point release. In addition to performing traditional Chinese medicine acupuncture, a practitioner may also utilize dry needling of a sore and tight muscle to release taut and hyperirritable muscle bands involved in pain patterns. Dry needling is a technique in which a solid acupuncture needle is inserted into sore and tight muscle points. These points are gently manipulated to stimulate the muscle, eliciting a local twitch response within the muscle fibers. The pain relief that occurs may be partially attributable to activation of opioids, a natural pain-relieving substance found in the body.
A painful muscle may or may not be the primary source of pain, so it is important to investigate other potential sources, such as nerve compression from the spine. This should be thoroughly explored with your health-care provider or physician.
Although there is little evidence to conclude that acupuncture can increase flexibility, it can reduce the tight and pulling sensations within a painful muscle-to-tendon attachment, allowing reduced pain in a joint and less restriction of its range of motion.
Acupuncture is a safe treatment that has no side effects, unlike pain medications, and can be used during an exercise program to treat musculoskeletal injuries. Be sure, however, to undergo a thorough evaluation with your health-care provider to properly diagnose your condition.
Dr. Elizabeth Manejías is a physiatrist and acupuncturist at Hospital for Special Surgery’s Integrative Care Center. Professionally trained in ballet, Dr. Manejías specializes in the non-surgical care of spine, musculoskeletal, and neurological injuries, and she offers an integrative approach to the management of conditions common in the athlete and performing artist.