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. [Continue Reading]