Plastic Brains, Sports Performance and Needling for Success

December 15, 2010 0 comments Pain and Injury

Everyone knows you can overdo it during the excesses at Christmas. But did you know you can overdo it in the New Year as well?  This article is focussing on the post-Christmas period, specifically on muscle and tendon injuries – for all you people overdoing it in the gym.



I recently attended a two-day workshop on sports injuries which was thoroughly enjoyable.  Led by Kevin Young, an acupuncturist and physiotherapist with 20 years’ experience.  Interestingly, he now uses 80% of acupuncture for his physio treatments, saying it has improved his clinical results. The photo shows acupuncture for a knee injury. In this article I will explain how acupuncture can help improve your performance in sports events, both before and after by helping you to maintain properly balanced muscles and joints.  Sports medicine research has shown that low back pain in athletes causes weakness of the core muscles, which results in slower movement of the hips and lower limbs.  Performance is impaired.


Brain’s response to training

Whether you are an athlete or weekend warrior, acupuncture can reduce the physical and mental stress placed on your body through your sport, so improving your performance.  I do this by influencing the brain’s response to your exercise.


To explain this, I’ll need to review some basic theory on how the brain works.  Brain research has revealed that sustained activity – physical as well as thinking and imagining – change the brain and mind through creating neural or brain cell connections. Training and exercise involve repetitive learning and memory storage, creating neural circuits or maps in the brain.  The initial learning is a conscious process and physical repetition.  Overtime this acquired skill becomes subconscious.  The neurons in the brain are wired together and automatically fire as a circuit during exercise: muscles and joints respond more quickly and efficiently; you don’t need to think about what to do, your body does it automatically.  But these connections are plastic, not permanent. Any wrong kinds of physical experience will erase these connections built by good experience.  The wrong kinds of experience may include improper training or training with fatigued or injured muscles.  If a muscle is fatigued from overtraining or injuries, one part the circuit is firing too slowly, the coordinated movement is disturbed or even destroyed.  The brain now forms a new map to accommodate the injury.


Strong brain neural connections, which become ever more powerful with correct training, do so as they are able to process information faster and efficiently.  This enables the fast speed of thought and reaction so essential in competitive sports.


How acupuncture helps improve performance

The conclusion of this is that athletes should perform only with coordinated and well-balanced physical systems without pain or injuries.  That is why to perform at their best, athletes should do their utmost to prevent injury and if this is impossible to achieve complete recovery.  Regular weekly tune-up acupuncture sessions can help to maintain this balance.  I seek out active and latent sensitivities in muscles and tendons, then reduce these stresses on the body and promote homeostasis – or optimal balance both physically and psychologically.  Needling does this by activating local healing and crucially by stimulating a whole body reaction involving nervous, endocrine, cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems to address widespread posture and locomotion imbalances.  All athletes, professional or amateur, are living with hidden musculoskeletal stress that can become symptomatic at any time during training or competition if it is not properly treated.  Consequently, acupuncture treatment before these injuries occur is important. Balanced muscles and joints, a positive mental attitude, produce the most efficient mechanical movement leading to fewer injuries and better performance. In short, you play your sport at the best level you can.



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