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Closeup of a person putting acupuncture needles into another person's back

Your Guide to Acupuncture for Sports Injuries

How can tiny needles help you get back to playing your favorite sport, faster? Today we talk with an OhioHealth expert to get the lowdown on how acupuncture can help athletes.

Whether you’re training for the next big race or gearing up for a local basketball league, all that hard work can sometimes lead to injury. There’s never a good time to be hurt. But fortunately, there’s a surprising treatment that can reduce pain and swelling and help injuries heal: Acupuncture.

“Acupuncture has been shown to reduce inflammation, lessen muscle spasms and increase the body’s natural pain-reducing neurohormones,” says Doug DiOrio, M.D., assistant fellowship director for Sports Medicine at OhioHealth.

We talked with DiOrio about how the treatment can help athletes — and why it works.

Closeup of a person putting acupuncture needles into another person's body

When do you recommend acupuncture for athletes?

I am usually recommending acupuncture along with many other interventions to help sports-related injuries. It is one tool in my toolbox. I am ready to use it as part of the first line treatment of sports injuries and as a secondary treatment, too.

What specific injuries does acupuncture help with?

It is very good with pain problems — especially back and neck pain. It helps with all tendonitis and tendonosis (like tennis elbow or patellar tendonitis). It is good at helping scar tissue and painful joints. I use it on trigger points and tender muscles. It also helps with both tension and migraine headaches. Plus, it’s good for reducing swelling in acute injuries and helps with all overuse injuries.

How frequently should athletes go to acupuncture?

It all depends on the chronicity of the problem. Acute problems could be twice a week. Chronic problems are more like once a week.

Are there particular kinds of athletes who benefit the most from acupuncture?

It’s good for all types of athletes in many types of injuries.

Why does it work?

It increases blood flow to areas of the body which allows the body to help heal itself. It works with the body to normalize tissue and heal injuries.

What’s the biggest misconception about acupuncture?

The number one question by far is “does it hurt?” The answer is “no” but most people still don’t believe that once the needles are in place you cannot tell where they are. I have been asked about infection as well, which does not occur, and there should be no worries about this either.

Looking for more information about sports medicine? Learn more here.