What can Traditional Chinese Medicine do for an Athlete?

I guess that is question number one. What can TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) — that is mainly Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs — do for an athlete today? What can it do for you?


It’s a big question that touches on what acupuncture is, what proof there is that it works, and what kind of problems it is most helpful for. I want to address all these questions over the next few weeks, but let’s start with a couple of prominent examples. Health care is (and should be) private — so, I never discuss my patients without specific permission. Fortunately, a number of famous athletes have discussed using TCM in the press.



A great example is Kerri Walsh (Olympic Gold Medalist in Volleyball). She used acupuncture to resolve pain and speed healing after Rotator Cuff Surgery. This is something I see a lot in my practice — and it isn’t just for athletes. Once of the benefits of acupuncture and herbs is that it helps to reduce swelling, inflammation and pain, and speeds healing. I also think it works well for reducing the formation of scar tissue. For a high performance athlete, this is particularly important in reducing time out from training, and in regaining the full use of the injured part of the body.



Another is Yao Ming (Houston Rockets Basketball All-Star), who suffered a stress fracture in his left foot and had surgery to install a screw to stabilize the bone, again with acupuncture and Chinese herbs as part of his aggressive rehabilitation program — to speed his recovery. This is a type of injury I’ve seen a number of times in my practice — recently with a couple of triathletes and skiers. It can be a tough surgery to recover from, but I’ve seen great results – a good surgeon is the first step, then acupuncture and herbs to reduce the swelling, pain, and scar tissue. I also use Electric Acupuncture (Microcurrent Electric Stim) and infrasound treatments. This type of surgery and rehabilitation also helps people with severe bunions and foot pain.



So, one answer I will suggest is that TCM helps with post-surgery rehabilitation, with the goal of reducing swelling, pain, inflammation and restoring full function as quickly as possible.

Avatar Written by Byron Russell LAc

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