After a bad case of Achilles Tendonitis sidelined me for many months in 2006, I knew I had to do something; after all, it had been months since I laced up my shoes for a run. Despite being weary of needles (read: downright afraid!), I gave acupuncture a try. Not only did acupuncture get me back running in no time, but the continued treatment of this ancient practice has kept me running and become an integral part of my training, recovery, and overall well-being.
Since acupuncture has been so valuable to me, I wanted to share more about the benefits of it with you, my readers, so I sat down with Mari Greenly of East Bridge Wellness Center, a Licensed Acupuncturist in Portland, Oregon, to learn why having your body full of needles is a good thing. Mari is also Nationally Board Certified in Oriental Medicine.
WHAT IS ACUPUNCTURE AND HOW DOES IT WORK?
Acupuncture is the insertion of small, sterile needles into acupuncture points along meridians to allow for the free flow of “qi” or energy through these pathways. When qi is stuck, in excess, deficient, or not flowing freely, symptoms along the meridian itself or its associated organ can occur. If someone has pain in a particular area, the treatment will involve needling directly around the area of pain; other times, a paired organ or meridian is needled to direct healing energy to a distant area of pain in the body.
DO THE NEEDLES HURT GOING IN?
I tell people that when the needle goes in, it may feel like a mosquito bite—however, the initial sensation subsides quickly. Everyone has a different threshold for needling, which is why I have many different sizes and styles of needles to help even the most sensitive people overcome a fear of needles. Once the needles are in you don’t really notice them and it’s actually very relaxing.
Thumbholes note: As a needle phobe, I don’t feel them going in and I’m never more relaxed than when my body is full of needles!
WHAT IS THE BENEFIT OF ACUPUNCTURE FOR RUNNERS?
Runners can benefit in many ways from acupuncture. Most athletes, due to the nature of training and performing, can be prone to injury and related pain or discomfort. Acupuncture is famously known for its ability to relieve symptoms associated with pain and injury. Not only can acupuncture help symptoms like pain and swelling, but it can also promote healing by bringing blood flow to an area, activating the immune system and allowing the body to heal from within. Furthermore, runners can have blood deficiencies, which can cause tendon problems, insomnia, dry skin, and other symptoms. From a Chinese perspective, it’s because long distance running uses up a lot of the body’s yin and fluids, therefore creating this deficiency over time. Running is also considered a Yang exercise. Chinese herbs and acupuncture can help tonify the blood and yin, balance the body, promoting deep relaxation and keep runners running for longer!
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO GET ACUPUNCTURE?
All the time given the many benefits of acupuncture—preventative, stress reduction, pain reliever, just to name a few. If you are training for a race, getting a few consecutive treatments prior to it can be very beneficial—and then following up with one or two treatments after the race can help with any inflammation or “tweaks” you may have experienced during the race. Overall, I recommend having a conversation with your practitioner to discuss your plan given your time, resources, and specific treatment needs.
IS ACUPUNCTURE COVERED BY HEALTH INSURANCE?
Acupuncture is often covered by insurance, but it all depends on your plan. Some insurance companies such as Moda on the ACA Healthcare exchange in Oregon have great acupuncture benefit options. In California, acupuncture is covered for unlimited visits and in Washington, at least 12 visits per years are required by all plans. Acupuncture is typically listed under alternative benefits, although I would prefer to see it classified under preventative medicine benefits. Check your plan to find out your benefits—you may be surprised to learn that acupuncture is covered!
CAN YOU SHARE A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR JOURNEY TO BECOME AN ACUPUNCTURIST?
I knew I wanted to study medicine after graduating from college with a degree in biology and anthropology. I first experienced acupuncture, as a runner myself. I had knee problems since I was an adolescent, but I loved to run for enjoyment. By my mid-twenties, I was having pretty serious symptoms as I started running longer distances, and sought the help of an acupuncturist. I was amazed by the results and knew that this was a profound medicine that I wanted to learn about.
FOR THOSE WHO ARE LOCATED IN PORTLAND, WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO CONTACT YOU OR SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT?
Scheduling is easy! You can call or text my office number 503-349-8122 for an appointment, or go to East Bridge Wellness Center and use the “Book Now” form to email me. I will get back to you as quickly as I can.
IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE THAT YOU’D LIKE TO SHARE?
I absolutely love what I do! You don’t have to be in pain or injured to reap the benefits from acupuncture. Anyone who has stress in his or her life can benefit from regular acupuncture sessions. It brings balance to the body, promotes healing, tonifies the immune system, and is a safe and effective treatment for many health issues and injuries. I spent four years in a Masters Degree program in Oriental Medicine, but I will spend the rest of my life deepening my knowledge and love for this sophisticated Medicine that has been developed over thousands of years and continues to evolve.
Thank you, Mari, for taking the time to share the benefits of acupuncture with my readers. As you know, I‘m your biggest fan and am always telling everyone, “Mari keeps me running up mountains!” What more could I ask for?
Future blog posts will explore the benefits of yoga and massage for runners. Have you tried acupuncture? If so, what’s been your experience?