You may not know this though acupuncture is currently being used in professional sports as high up as Olympic Athletics and the NFL. It’s used in pre-game performance, post-game recovery and injury rehab and prevention. While you think of acupuncture as relaxation for stress and fertility, sports acupuncture is fast and effective with the use of electrical stimulation on needles to improve muscle elasticity, activation of weak or inhibited muscles, for optimal performance.
In sports acupuncture muscles can be placed into 2 different groups tonic and phasic. Tonic muscle are predominately slow twitch muscle with a willingness for work that resist fatigue, they are likely to become short or tight. These include; the hamstrings, TFL and pectoralis major. Phasic muscles are fast twitch dominant and are powerful movers, these muscles are likely to become weak or inhibited, like the glute muscles. This is how motor point acupuncture is effective by using the correct time and frequency to what the muscles require.
In a session the practitioner would do some range of motion and strength of muscle tests to see which muscles are weak and/or limited in movement by pain or tension. After the testing needles will be placed in the appropriate Motor Unit Points of the affected muscles and then to increase the elasticity of short or tight muscles, a low frequency is applied to the needles for 2-7 minutes, a higher frequency at short impulses is used to strengthen or activate inhibited muscles. The muscles will contract and you may experience a dull ache or DOMS soreness for the next day or so.
The advantages of sports acupuncture is the specificity in applying the correct frequency to the appropriate muscle and their function will have the desired affect for optimal performance. A study showed that acupuncture at acupuncture points with and without electrical stimulation increases the strength of muscles involved in dorsiflexion by 32%-64% (Zhou 2012). If you are an elite athlete looking to maintain muscle function and elasticity in between events or a desk worker looking to keep those glutes activated and shoulders back for your weekend runs, or yoga student wanting your shoulder stabilisers activated to control Chaturanga, think about sports acupuncture and spark your performance.