Acupuncture and Sports Recovery

Acupuncture and Sports Recovery

I was originally skeptical about how acupuncture could help me recover from nerve damage and muscle stiffness and soreness.  I’ve been working with an acupuncturist now for about a year and my mobility, pain levels, and mood are so much better, and I attribute much of this to those tiny needles going into my body.  

So here’s what I found when I look at the science.

Acupuncture in the US

Practiced in China and the Far East for thousands of years, acupuncture came to the US in the 1800s. Practiced on prisoners in the 1820s, Dr. Bache reached the conclusion that acupuncture was the best approach for managing pain.  Articles in various medical journals explored pain management and treatment of disease through acupuncture. Although not brought into the mainstream of US medical theory until the last 20th century, acupuncture has been here for nearly 200 years. 

What happens when a need goes in?

On a personal level, I can tell you that mostly, it doesn’t hurt. If I’m very inflamed or already in pain, the initial point can hurt, but it fades quickly. If it doesn’t, my doc just eases back on the needle.  But what happens physiologically?  Here’s what the NIH says

Findings from basic medical research that acupuncture stimulation causes release of endorphins, serotonin, enkephalins, and γ-amino-butyric acid (GABA; a major inhibitory neurotransmitter of the brain), norepinephrine, and dopamine helped to explain the acupuncture effect on a biomedical and pharmacological basis that was acceptable to the Western medical establishment.

Who doesn’t want all those good chemicals zooming around their body? Additionally, acupuncture will help with circulation and can help the body’s organs to work better. 

What are the benefits for athletes? 

In addition to releasing important chemicals, when needles are inserted into painful location the needles help increase circulation, but also helps to decrease inflammation, swelling and heat by sending adenosine – a natural stimulant for tissue repair—to the site. 

The employee magazine of PUMA claims: Regular treatments between training help to optimize the body’s natural healing process. Acupuncture can increase circulation at the site of an injury, help to relax tight muscles and reduce overall muscle fatigue and soreness. Some top athletes claim that this treatment can work to speed up recovery time.

 Body care products that help

Arnica, CBD, and MSM all aid in helping stressed, overworked, and stiff muscles recover. You can apply products after your acupuncture session, especially if cupping has been used as part of your treatment.

MASSAGE+ is a gentle, unscented oil infused with arnica, CBD isolate and is full of skin-loving antioxidants and omega fatty acids. Formulated for fast absorption, this oil goes on easily and won’t leave your skin feeling greasy.  I use this on my neck and shoulders after acupuncture and on my hips and lower back after cupping.

RECOVERY+ Is made with organic aloe and coconut oil. Infused with MSM, arnica and CBD isolate this luscious cream goes on quickly and softens and hydrates skin while delivering comfort to your sore muscles. I use this on my knees and hips and hands.

CHILL is a cooling aloe gel infused with arnica and essential oils, including menthol, peppermint, holy basil, and turmeric. The natural blue color is from the herbs. It delivers a cooling sensation to overheated muscles. I use this when I would use an ice pack. CHILL+ Is the same formula, but infused with CBD Isolate.

You can check out all the recovery products on our website.


Written by:



Val Sanford

Val Sanford 

Growing up in Southern California, Val played competitive softball (coached by her father), was a gymnast, swimmer, ran cross country, fished, hiked, kayaked, and as an adult, experimented in rock climbing and golf. In 2010 she was diagnosed with a rare cancer; a liposarcoma was growing on her sciatic nerve. Once this tumor was removed, she has been cancer-free!

Left with significant nerve damage, she now has limited mobility. Yet still moves and engages in the world around her. She snorkels, walks, travels, and practices yoga to combat chronic pain and to maximize her ability to keep moving. She works with a personal trainer, acupuncturist, physical therapist, and massage therapist to maximize her mobility.

She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and her dog and gets her fins on so she can swim with the fish any time she can.  

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