Acupuncture in sports – injuries and more

Sports injuries

Sports injuries are very common, whether you are a professional athlete or a hobby sportsperson. Some sports so frequently incur particular injuries, that their association became part of the common language. You have probably heard of tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, and runner’s knee.


I had a fair share of injuries over the past twenty years myself. In fact, my first acupuncture treatment was for a volleyball-induced knee injury, about 8 years ago. I was astonished by the effect, so much, that I decided to study acupuncture! How could the insertion of a few tiny needles into the unaffected leg cause my painful, swollen knee to straighten, something I was unable to do just 5 seconds before? Even as a practitioner, many years down the line since that initial encounter, the changes often amaze me.


We all know that sports injuries are painful and annoying, they prevent us from doing what we love. According to the British Medical Journal, more than 90% of all sport-related injuries are contusions or strains. Contusions are more common in contact sports, while strains are more common in activities that involve sprinting or jumping.Many of you, sports lovers, have probably also dislocated a joint at some point, so you know how agonizing it feels.  If it happens again, make sure you address it promptly, because delaying treatment can cause the joint surface to suffer irreversible damage, which can lead to post-traumatic arthritis and lifelong consequences.1


The standard, Western Medicine answer for sprains, strains, and contusions is the so-called RICE protocol (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevate), as well as the use of painkillers (i.e. paracetamol) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (i.e. ibuprofen). It is a great start, and most of these injuries do resolve over time following these measures, but sometimes that resting period can feel painfully long, can’t it?


This is where acupuncture comes in. It is great at reducing pain and inflammation as well as promoting physical and mental wellbeing. Unfortunately, there are only a few good quality research studies out there to support the use of acupuncture in the treatment of sports injuries.This means that at the moment, I am unable to blow your mind with dazzling statistical facts. I will, however, over the next three weeks, share with you three injury-related case studies from my practice.


Wouldn’t it be great not to get injured in the first place? There are a few things you can do to prevent an injury! If you’re starting a new sport, take some lessons, and learn the proper technique! During the thirteen years I was actively fencing, I had only one injury that stopped me from training for over a month. When I moved to this country and changed sports, it became another story. I had no trouble joining a volleyball team in the local league, as I could more or less dig, volley and hit. There was no emphasis on the basics, and all I wanted to improve, was hitting, receiving and positioning on the court. With the league matches, the injuries came, year after year. I damaged my ankle and knee due to a lousy jumping technique. Not so smart. Whatever your sport is, put some effort into learning the basic techniques, however obvious they may seem. You can save yourself a lot of future hassle.  Always warm up properly before exercise, and keep your body warm when you finish!

Not just for injuries

Many professional athletes use acupuncture as part of their routine to keep healthy and on top of their game. It has been used in the NBA for decades to enhance recovery. Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal amongst other players have used it repeatedly during their active years3.


Research suggests that acupuncture can improve athletic performance in a variety of ways. It reduces stress and helps the athlete to stay focused and grounded during a game. Along with helping to recover from injuries, it also reduces recovery time after competitions and training. It can increase blood flow in major muscle groups, thus impacting physical performance. The regular use of acupuncture may also improve endurance capacity.4


Whatever your sport and your level, looking after yourself is essential. For many of us, sports offer the best way to wind down and cope with the stresses of day to day life. Sports also give us goals to strive for and countless opportunities to push ourselves, growing as athletes as well as human beings. With that in mind, it’s easy to understand that having to take a long time out due to injury has wider implications on our lives aside from physical pain.


Acupuncture is a great addition to your self-care routine, whether you are a hobby athlete or a professional. Message me to find out more and remember to watch this space for the upcoming case studies!



  1. BMJ Publishing Group (2018) Overview of sport-related injuries.Available at: 28 Feb 2019)
  2. British Acupuncture Council Research Fact Sheet (2015) Sports Injuries. Available at: 06 March 2019)
  3. Kennedy, A. (2017) NBA players trying acupuncture to relieve pain, maximize effectiveness. 30 December Available at: 06 March 2019)
  4. Peirano, K. (2019) 5 Ways Acupuncture Can Improve Athletic Performance. Acupuncture Today. 20(3) pp. 33-35 Available at: 08 March 2019)