What is Sports Acupuncture?
The difference between sports acupuncture and other styles of acupuncture is the focus. Sports acupuncture is combines the methods and techniques of traditional acupuncture with contemporary sports medicine assessments and diagnostics. Higher attention is paid to postural and movement analysis and more specific orthopaedic testing is performed as part of the assessments. Treatment often involves the traditional channel points, but includes the addition of different types of points more specific to myofascial conditions and movement dysfunctions. There are basically three phases of treatment: injury recovery, injury prevention and performance enhancement.
The treatment of sports injuries and orthopaedic conditions often requires the use of some different types of acupuncture points. Mainly there are three types of points I use in my practice: Channel Points, Trigger Points and Motor Points.
Channel points are the “traditional” acupuncture points. The ones you’d see on an acupuncture diagram. Typically (though there are exceptions), channel points lie in between anatomical structures. In fact the Chinese word which we usually translate as “point” is better translated as “crevice” or “hole”. For example a channel point my lie in the junction between two tendons where they attach to the bone at a joint. By stimulating this junction we can affect the relationship of these structures. This is a key concept with performing acupuncture on channel points: affecting the relationship of various structures and systems in the body.
Trigger points can defined as hyper-irritable points of tension in the myofascia matrix. In other words, it’s a muscle knot. These can be in a variety of places and do not have anatomically defined locations, although there’s areas that are more prone to trigger points. By definition they are very sensitive to the touch. In fact, trigger points are one of the oldest described acupuncture points. In the one of the seminal acupuncture texts from China, trigger points were called ah-shi points. This literally means “oh yeah!” points (as in “Is this the spot?” “Oh yeah!”) Performing acupuncture on trigger points causes a fasciculation, or twitch response, which stimulates the the myofascial fibres to relax relieve the pain and discomfort almost immediately. The modern practice of IMS and Dry Needling is based around this technique.
Motor points are the point in a muscle where the motor nerve enters from the central nervous system. This makes it the place in a muscle where the motor response and electrical sensitivity is highest. They are usually found in the belly of the muscle and larger muscles can have several motor points. There is a bit of cross over between motor points and channel points. The ‘exceptions’ to the in-between-structure definition are often the points that are in both categories. Performing acupuncture on a motor point stimulates the bio-electricity of the motor nerve via the conductivity of the acupuncture needle. This also causes a fasciculation, or twitch response. Because they have a strong effect on the relax/contract ability of a muscle, stimulating motor points can have a tremendous effect on muscle recruitment, muscle sequencing, holding patterns, and movement patterns. Because of this they are crucial for the treatment of faulty movement patterns, acute and chronic injuries and balancing the structural integrity of the body to optimize performance.