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  • Writer's pictureNicci

Acupuncture, acupressure and self-care tips for runners

Updated: Jul 29, 2023

Two men and two women jogging in the countryside

As a favourite form of exercise and a competitive sport, running places immense strain on the musculoskeletal system, leading to pain and overuse injuries for many dedicated runners. While proper training and warm-up routines can help prevent such issues, incorporating complementary therapies like acupuncture and acupressure can further enhance a runner's performance and recovery. Acupuncture, an ancient Chinese practice that involves the insertion of fine needles into specific points on the body, has been gaining popularity among athletes for its potential to alleviate pain, reduce inflammation, and promote overall well-being.

Acupuncture for Musculoskeletal Pain and Overuse Injuries

One of the primary benefits of acupuncture for runners lies in its ability to target and relieve musculoskeletal pain. The treatment aims to restore the body's natural balance by stimulating the flow of energy or "qi" through the body's meridians. For runners experiencing pain in areas such as the knees, ankles, or hips due to overuse, acupuncture can provide targeted pain relief. By inserting needles at acupoints related to the affected areas, acupuncturists can help reduce inflammation, increase blood flow, and release endorphins – the body's natural painkillers.

Additionally, acupuncture can promote tissue repair, which is crucial for runners dealing with chronic injuries like tendonitis or muscle strains. Improved circulation and the activation of the body's healing processes can lead to faster recovery times, allowing runners to get back to their training routines more quickly and effectively.

Acupressure for runners

Acupressure is a traditional healing technique based on the same principles as acupuncture but involves applying pressure instead of using needles on specific points along the body's meridians to promote healing and alleviate various health issues.

Some acupressure points that can be helpful for runners include:

  • Stomach 36 (ST36) - Zusanli: Situated on the front of the lower leg, about four finger widths below the knee cap and one finger width to the outside of the shin bone. ST36 can boost energy levels, making it beneficial for endurance and overall stamina during runs. [CAUTION – DON’T USE FROM WEEK 36 OF PREGNANCY]

  • Spleen 6 (SP6) - Sanyinjiao: Found on the inside of the lower leg, about three finger widths above the ankle bone. SP6 can help relieve muscle cramps and aid in overall leg comfort during and after running. [CAUTION – DON’T USE WHEN PREGNANT]

  • Bladder 60 (BL60) - Kunlun: Located on the outside of the ankle, just behind the ankle bone. BL60 can be pressed to soothe and reduce ankle pain, which is common among runners. [CAUTION – DON’T USE WHEN PREGNANT]

  • Gallbladder 34 (GB34) - Yanglingquan: Situated on the outer side of the lower leg, in the depression in front of the fibula head. GB34 can help alleviate knee pain and is particularly useful for runners dealing with knee-related issues.

  • Kidney 3 (KD3) - Taixi: Found on the inner side of the ankle, in the depression between the Achilles tendon and the ankle bone. KD3 can be pressed to relieve lower back pain, which is sometimes associated with long-distance running or improper form.

  • Bladder 54 (BL54) - Weizhong: Located in the middle of the back of the knee crease. BL54 can be pressed to ease hamstring tightness and alleviate pain in the back of the knee.

Remember to apply gentle but firm pressure to these acupressure points, holding for 30 seconds to a minute or until you feel a sense of relief. Acupressure can be an excellent way to support your running training, reduce discomfort, and enhance overall well-being. However, if you have any specific health concerns or chronic conditions, it's best to consult with a healthcare professional or an acupuncturist before incorporating these techniques into your routine.

Acupressure or acupuncture what’s the difference?

Both acupuncture and acupressure are effective methods of traditional Chinese medicine aimed at promoting health and well-being. However, one could argue that acupuncture holds certain advantages over acupressure.

One significant benefit of acupuncture is its precise and targeted nature. By using fine needles, acupuncturists can access deep points on the body's meridians with great accuracy, stimulating the flow of energy and promoting specific healing responses. Acupuncture's needle insertion allows for a more profound and long-lasting effect compared to acupressure's external pressure on acupoints. Additionally, some individuals might find acupuncture more comfortable, as the fine needles generally cause minimal discomfort.

However, it's essential to recognize that the choice between acupuncture and acupressure depends on personal preference, the specific health concern, and the individual's comfort with the respective techniques. Both practices have their merits and can be effective in addressing a wide range of health issues for those seeking the benefits of traditional Chinese medicine.

Other Complementary Self-Care Suggestions for Runners Training for a Race

While acupuncture and acupressure can be a valuable tool for runners, it's essential to combine it with other self-care practices to maximize its benefits. Here are some additional suggestions that runners can incorporate into their training routines:

  • Stretching and Flexibility Exercises: Regular stretching and flexibility exercises can help improve muscle function and reduce the risk of injury. Consider including dynamic stretches before running and static stretches after to enhance flexibility and range of motion.

  • Foam Rolling and Self-Massage: Foam rolling can aid in releasing muscle knots and tension, promoting better circulation and faster recovery. Self-massage techniques like using a tennis ball to target specific trigger points can also be beneficial.

  • Rest and Recovery Days: Giving the body enough time to rest and recover is crucial for preventing overuse injuries. Incorporate rest days into your training schedule and consider activities like swimming or cycling on these days to reduce impact.

  • Proper Nutrition: Maintaining a balanced diet rich in nutrients can support muscle repair and overall well-being. Hydration is also essential for runners to avoid dehydration during intense training sessions.

  • Cross-Training: Engaging in other low-impact exercises like yoga, Pilates, tai chi or strength training can help build overall strength, improve flexibility, and reduce the risk of imbalances that could lead to injuries.

  • Sleep: Ensure you are getting enough sleep each night, as it plays a crucial role in the body's recovery and healing processes.

  • Proper Footwear: Invest in well-fitted, supportive running shoes that suit your foot type and gait. Wearing the right footwear can reduce the impact on your joints and prevent injury.

In conclusion, incorporating acupuncture or acupressure into a runner's self-care routine can be a valuable addition for managing musculoskeletal pain and overuse injuries. Its natural approach to pain relief, inflammation reduction, and tissue repair can contribute to improved performance and faster recovery times. However, it's essential to combine acupuncture with other self-care practices like stretching, foam rolling, proper nutrition, and rest days to achieve the best results. By taking a holistic approach to their training, runners can enhance their physical and mental well-being, and ultimately, excel in their races with reduced risk of injury.

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