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The Benefits of Acupuncture Therapy for Athletes

Caroline Gee

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As senior Aaron Ho described the feeling of having needles jabbed into his skin, he made the process sound surprisingly idyllic. After tearing a tendon in his knee, Ho eagerly tried out acupuncture at the request of his mother.

Acupuncture is a form of Chinese medicine in which practitioners insert thin needles into the patient’s skin to relieve pain. According to the British Acupuncture Council, the earliest signs of acupuncture treatment date back to thousands of year ago from between the first century BC and the first century AD. In the 20th century, the emergence of western medicine in the east overshadowed this traditional medicine, but acupuncture fell back into favor in China in the 1930s. There are at least 20 acupuncture clinics to date in Cupertino alone. Common reasons to undergo acupuncture can be for chronic pain like low-back pain, neck pain and knee pain or for migraines. According to Ho’s practitioner, traditional acupuncture is based on the belief that diseases are caused by a disruption of one’s flow of “qi” or energy in the body. Stimulating specific points on the patient’s body with the use of needles works to release  qi and relieve pain.

“It’s like energy, energy in the body,” Ho said about qi. “I think after [acupuncture] spread to the west, [people] did more research on it and several theories that they have on it is that acupuncture serves to… cause the brain to release several hormones.”

At Ho’s first session at the Dr. Song Acupuncture and Herb Clinic, the practitioner questioned Ho on his symptoms before observing his tongue. In Chinese medicine, the tongue is thought to reflect the entire state of the body. Practitioners take into account the color of the tongue, quality of the “fur” on the tongue and the general shape of the tongue. Afterwards, Ho lay down on a bed and the meticulous needle-poking began — as well as Ho’s nap.

“You can ask them to play music, but I just slept,” Ho said. And they also have these heating lamp that they put on exposed skin, so most of the time I was lying face up so that my belly was exposed and so they would put the heating lamp on my belly to basically to prevent sickness.”

Over the course of several sessions, Ho’s knee improved to where he was able to resume playing volleyball. Western medicine may seem like the obvious to any form of injury, but especially in the cause of stubborn chronic pain, remaining open to foreign types of medicine is something to consider.

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