Acupuncture for Improved Athletic Performance

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Acupuncture for Improved Athletic Performance

“Based on evidence, acupuncture therapy on special acupoints could strengthen the parasympathetic nervous activity and modulates the balance between parasympathetic and sympathetic activity in soccer players while they engage in high-intensity training.”

Shihang et al. (2017, p. 268)

Acupuncture has been thought to have the capacity to help improve physical performance and stamina. consequently, more research efforts are now directed towards establishing a definitive answer as to just how effective it can be. Within the field of its many therapeutic applications, acupuncture has been reported to have positive effects on human physiology such as the cardiovascular and pulmonary systems (heart and lungs), and neuro-endocrine responses (nervous system and hormones) (Maki 2013, p. 8).


Acupuncture has been shown to improve athletic performance …

  • In a trial to determine the effect of acupuncture on cycling performance for a 20km stationary ride, Dhillon (2018) found that acupuncture administered immediately before a session reduced the rating of perceived exertion experienced by the participants. This in turn resulted in lower readings for exercise-induced pain in the legs and improved overall times for the distance cycled.

Acupuncture holds potential for sports rehabilitation …

  • Hübscher et al (2010) studied the strength and performance enhancing effects of acupuncture on a group of 33 recreational athletes. It was found that a single acupuncture treatment was efficacious for improving isometric quadriceps strength which has implications for its use in athletic performance and rehabilitation programs aimed at restoring neuromuscular function.

Acupuncture improves blood flow and metabolic mechanisms …

  • A single blind trial by Ehrlich & Haber (1992) found that 5 weekly treatments of acupuncture significantly increased maximum performance capacity  and physical performance at the anaerobic threshold which can be interpreted as functional improvement in the blood flow of the body and metabolic mechanisms. This was compared to a placebo and control group, both of which exhibited either no noticeable effects, or unfavourable outcomes respectively.

“Unilateral electroacupuncture at the selected acupoints improved muscle strength of both limbs. These findings may have implications in physical therapy and rehabilitation settings.”

Huang et al. (2007)

  • Dhillon, S (2018). The acute effect of acupuncture on 20-km cycling performance. Clin J Sport Med. 2008 Jan;18(1):76-80. Source.
  • Ehrlich, D. & Haber, P. (1992). Influence of acupuncture on physical performance capacity and haemodynamic parameters. International Journal of Sports Medicine. 
  • Huang, L, Zhou, S, Lu, Z, Tian, Q, Cao, L, Yu, J & Wang, H 2007, Bilateral effect of unilateral electroacupuncture on muscle strength, J Altern Complement Med. 2007 Jun;13(5), pp. 539-46, Source, viewed 9 January 2019
  • Hübscher, M. Vogt, L. Ziebart, T. & Banzer, W. (2010). Immediate effects of acupuncture on strength performance: a randomized, controlled crossover trial. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2010 Sep; 110(2), pp. 353-8. Source, viewed 26 June 2018
  • Maki, N. (2013). Athletic Performance Effect of Acupuncture on Baseball Pitching: A Literature Review. The American Acupuncturist. 65. pp. 8 – 11. Source, viewed 21 June 2018
  • Shihang, LEungpinithpong, W, Jumnainsong, A & Rattanathongkom, S 2017, Effect of acupuncture on heart rate variability during prolonged high-intensity training in soccer players, Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Volume 37, Issue 5, pp. 636-642, Source, viewed 9 January 2019

About the Author:

Chris Fehres lives in Brisbane and holds a Bachelor of Health Science majoring in acupuncture. Chris completed his degree in 2015 at Endeavour College of Natural Health where he graduated with distinction and was awarded the medal of academic excellence for highest achievement Australia-wide for acupuncture. He currently holds positions at Endeavour College as a contract tutor for higher education and alumni representative for the Course Advisory Committees for both the Acupuncture and Biosciences departments, as well as having been chosen as the focus for their 2017 - 18 Graduate Stories write up.

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