Running puts stress on the body, and as a result, runners generally experience fatigue and damage differently than other athletes. Lower limbs take a beating and are more well-known as “part of” running…from shin splints, to plantar fasciitis, to low back, hip, knee, and ankle pains and strains and everything in between. As with many people both in and out of sporting activity, many runners seek treatment after an injury has occurred, losing valuable training time and enduring unnecessary pain.
What is pain, and why do we get it?
In Chinese Medicine we talk a lot about Qi, and how it is one of the fundamental substances in the body. Qi is an expression ofenergy; it propels the Blood, moves muscles, and activates organ systems. The continuous circulation of Qi is responsible for the healthy functioning of the body; as long as the Qi has appropriate strength, balance, and the flow is not blocked, the body flourishes.
When Qi is impeded (could be from stress, poor nutrition, lack or excess of exercise, external trauma, injury or a combination of any of these) symptoms such as pain, discomfort, and injuries begin to appear. This is called a stagnation of Qi and as a practitioner, our job is to get it moving properly again.
Acupuncture treatments are based around accessing a person’s Qi to increase or decrease its flow to treat blocks or imbalances of energy in order to restore the body’s health. When Qi is smoothed out through acupuncture and TCM, the body’s organs are refreshed allowing them to function more efficiently thus leaving you feeling improved.
What does this mean for a runner?
Regular acupuncture treatments can help prevent problems by improving muscle fibre mobility and maintaining strength and flexibility in hips, back, and legs.
Cupping is a major TCM modality that is essential to an athlete’s treatment. Not only does it break up stagnation in the form of tight and knotted muscles, it can relieve sore joints (knees, hips, shoulders), and release tight fascia (IT Bands). At the end of cupping there is always a lymphatic drain and this can contribute to a person not getting lactic acid build up in muscles.
Top 7 reasons to add Acupuncture & TCM into your training (or everyday wellness) routine:
- Decreases stress & anxiety. Being calm, clear headed, and focused is not only important for the main event, but also for training days and all the days in between.
- Improves sleep. You will be more rested and able to concentrate your energy with a sound sleep.
- Strengthens the immune system. This is especially important here in our climate since most of the training season is during the late winter and spring for the summer running season. With a healthy and strong immune system you will miss fewer training days and if you do catch a bug, it will cycle through your system much more quickly.
- Relief of allergies, sinus issues, and enables clear breathing. Acupuncture is a fast and effective way to clear up sinus and allergy issues so that you are able to take full breaths and to not feel any restrictions in the nasal passages. It also helps to maintain clear, strong lungs so when they are working overtime on a run you will have to slow or stop less to “catch your breath”.
- Speeds recovery time and assists in lymphatic drainage while working to prevent lactic acid build up. This is best achieved within the first 24-48 hours after a big run or workout.
- Increases awareness. Acupuncture allows a person to develop mindfulness of yourself and your surroundings. When this happens you will be able to enjoy the whole experience, from training to race day and beyond in a deeper and more complete way.
- Improves run times! This is by no means a guarantee but I have treated many runners who have expressed that they had their fastest times after having an acupuncture and cupping treatment!
The following is a suggested treatment schedule while training:
· 1 – 2 x /month for seasoned runners.
· 1 x /week for novice runners or those preparing for an event.
· 1 – 2 x /week if injury has occurred, or an old injury starts to surface.
Staying healthy, strong, and fit is a lifestyle, not just a one-time thing. While you are planning your next event, remember to book in with your favorite acupuncturist to find out what TCM can do for your training, performance, and recovery.