Can Acupuncture Improve Your Performance?

Can Acupuncture Improve Your Performance?

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Can Acupuncture Improve Your Performance?

Are you looking for an edge to your training? Have you considered incorporating acupuncture into your health maintenance and fitness regime?

Registered acupuncturist and herbalist Dr Shura Ford (doctor of Chinese medicine) explains what acupuncture is and how it may increase your athletic performance.

Acupuncture is one of the core therapies of Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). TCM is a system of natural medicine that has been used for thousands of years for the preservation and enhancement of health. Acupuncture involves the insertion of fine sterile needles (as fine as a human hair) into selected point sites according to an individual’s TCM health assessment. Each acupuncture point has a particular function; once stimulated with a needle, this function is activated.

Needles are single-use, disposable and retained for around 30 minutes. Acupuncture is not painful as many people would expect, it can in fact elicit a deeply
relaxing feeling and many people fall asleep during treatment. The principle of TCM is to attain balance and synergy of the body and mind, a concept not foreign to athletes who constantly use the power of their mind to push through pain barriers and challenge their bodies. When the body is in balance there is an abundance of Qi (life force/energy) flowing through the meridians of the body. If the flow of Qi is disrupted, the body will exhibit signs and symptoms of distress, leaving you with diminished mental capacity and vulnerable to injury.

Acupuncture and dry needling are not the same thing. Acupuncturists needle into acupuncture points or non-acupuncture points. Practitioners administrating dry
needling only needle into non-acupuncture points and only use dry needling for musculoskeletal conditions. Acupuncture points are anatomical structures that have high-density vascularisation whereas non-acupuncture points do not. These microvascular density characteristics have been clearly identified using MRIs, CT scans and ultrasound, which show a clear distinction between the two types of points. Non-acupuncture points such as trigger points are areas of muscular pain or tension. When palpated or needled, these trigger points elicit a painful response. Needling into these structures will most often cause a twitch in the muscle and
can be extremely painful and needles are not generally retained.


1. Injury treatment: Acupuncture is well known for its ability to treat pain. In 2014, trials at four Melbourne emergency departments found that acupuncture was as effective as analgesic medication in cases of back pain and broken ankles. Acupuncture also reduces muscular spasm, disperses swelling and bruising at injury
sites and inflammation associated with injuries. The reduction in inflammation improves joint range of motion and decreases healing time. The ability of acupuncture to perform these functions is through the enhancement of circulation and modulation of the body’s inflammatory response.

2. Benefits general health: Acupuncture is a preventative medicine; its origins lie in the ability to promote health and not only treat illness. Acupuncturists can use points to improve immune function and boost energy and stamina levels to allow you to perform at your highest level and beyond.

3. Aids training recovery: The restorative powers of acupuncture are valuable to aid muscle recovery and fatigue. Acupuncture boosts the restorative functions of the body allowing healing to occur after hard workouts where micro-tearing muscles aids growth. Because acupuncture enhances circulation it is useful posttraining
or event to minimise muscle fatigue. It is also effective in adrenalin processing and can help the body ease into a wind down phase post-event or training.

4. Improves muscular rehabilitation: Acupuncture can be applied in the corrective and rehabilitative phase of soft tissue dysfunction to restore and maintain the normal integrity of the soft tissue structures including the muscles, tendon, ligaments and fascia. Acupuncture is often used to stabilise muscle weakness, and is a powerful therapy following injuries such as dislocations. It can also be used to improve muscle imbalance and weakness that leads to dislocations such as VMO (vastus medius oblique) weakness.

5. Enhances mental clarity and tenacity: Acupuncture connects the body and mind and stimulates the body to produce its own natural pain killers, anti-inflammatory and anti-stress hormones. These hormones generate endorphins and feelings of euphoria, inner calmness and relaxation. Acupuncture provides psychological empowerment, improves clarity and perception and creates a winning edge. It allows you to maintain focus on your training goals, enhancing willpower, motivation and mental strength. These qualities are essential for endurance events such as marathons but are just as important for the everyday trainer or athlete who wants to build or improve their strength, balance and endurance and rid themselves of excuses and laziness!

Every athlete knows to be your best you have to continue to push your body to and beyond its limits. Is it unreasonable for your body to need some attention to achieve that? Invest in your body as you would your car. Do you drive your car every day? Do you wait for your car to break down before you fix it or do you service it a couple of times a year? You may be able to trade your car in for a newer version but you’ll have that body of yours for life and it is far more valuable than a car – so look after it!

Shura is a registered acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist with 14 years of clinical experience. She is co-founder of Ford Wellness Group, an allied health clinic in Essendon, Melbourne. Shura is passionate about health and wellness and loves to assist her clients to be the best version of themselves. She provides treatment options for chronic and acute ailments, facilitates supportive rehabilitation and encourages self-empowerment and healing for health, wellness and balance.
She has a special interest in the field of sports medicine. Find out more about Shura at or follow her on

1. Liu C, Wang X, Xu H, Liu F, Dang R, Zhang D, Zhang i, Xie H, Xiao T. X-ray phase-contrast CT imaging of the acupoints based on synchrotron
radiation. Journal of Electron Spectroscopy and Related Phenomena; 2013
2. Medew, J. Acupuncture as effective as drugs in treating pain, trial. The Sydney Morning Herald) show; 2014

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