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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Acupuncture and NBA

People seldom link acupuncture and NBA together. The fact is many NBA players have used acupuncture therapy in the recent decades for injury prevention, treatment and pain relief, including some big names such as Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley, Steve Nash, Ming Yao, Jason Kidd, Grant Hill, Kevin Johnson, Jerry Stackhouse, etc.

As funny as it is, some of these big guys are used to fierce physical conflicts but they were afraid of needles, at least at the first place. Back in the early '90s, when Charles Barkley was with the Phoenix Suns, he developed a sore neck that wouldn't let him turn his head. He turned to a local acupuncturist named Cao who successfully terminated the pain for the former MVP. "Charles, the big man with all of the big talk, was shy of the needles when he came in," as Cao recalled. "But when I put them in and he didn't feel them and he could play the game the next day, he was convinced." Another example is Dwyane Wade. The former NBA Finals MVP claimed he is scared of needles too at the beginning. Bothered by knee tendinitis, the Miami Heats all-star guard utilized acupuncture therapy in 2007 to help relieve the pain. "You just try to find a way to feel a little better," Wade said, “Right now I'm doing that and I feel a little better."

The needles for acupuncture normally are only two inches long and tiny thin. So they are barely noticeable and are not painful at all generally. Based on traditional Chinese medicine theory, acupuncture strengthens body function by encouraging circulation and restores internal harmony and balance. Not just NBA players, professional and amateur athletes from all over the world use acupuncture to manage and prevent injuries, alleviate pain, decrease swelling, spasms and inflammation, and regulate nervous system.

Relative studies conducted by the US National Institutes of Health, the World Health Organization as well as many research bodies worldwide have consistently shown that acupuncture is a safe and effective way to deal with pain and treat sports injuries, as well as supporting general wellness. More surprisingly, studies have shown that acupuncture has measurable effects on the flow of blood to certain body areas, which could in consequently boost athletic performance. One such study conducted at the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine (the university the author graduated from) involved some professional athletes running 5,000 meters, and then they are treated with acupuncture before they had a chance to catch their breath. The heart rates of the involved athletes who received the acupuncture treatments recovered more quickly than those in the control group. This might be the main reason why the Los Angeles guard Kobe Bryant, one of the greatest NBA players of all time, uses acupuncture three times on a weekly basis, which potentially allows him to jump higher, run faster and recover quicker.

Written by Cathy Ding, M.Sc., Ac., C.M.D., Oct. 23, 2012.

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