It has been shown in research that stimulation of acupuncture points aligns with activation of specific brain regions. Thus one explanation for the mechanisms of acupuncture is that effects are resulting from stimulation of the central and peripheral nervous systems. In this way we connect our brain and spinal cord with our muscles, tendons, and joints—reminding the body of the mechanisms available to maintain proper posture and positioning during any athletic movement. Various protective reflexes, i.e. golgi tendon reflex or myotatic reflexes can also be engaged, accelerated, and maintained with acupuncture. Proper acupuncture treatment can affect these mechanisms which keep our bodies safe, prepared, and reactive during exercise. And simply by improving these functions we can make any exercise more efficient, enjoyable, and safe.
Any athlete has days when their body feels light, when movements are easy and smooth, perhaps following a good warm up or simply a lively mood or healthy meal and good sleep. When your body just feels strong and flexible while responding to your commands—this is the most pure example of aligning the nervous and skeletomuscular systems. Total alignment of these systems is what all athletes train and hope for on competition day.
Ancient Chinese medicine doctors often prescribed exercises to improve qi and blood circulation throughout the body, and early on in the history of Chinese medicine the channels (ata. meridians) were written down as one of the fundamental systems of anatomy. The Channels are pathways which show us how energy moves through the body, how all areas of the body connect. These connections may be direct and close-by, or they may be indirect and distant; nonetheless this is a network of how all tissues are interconnected. By stimulating areas on these channels we improve the flow of qi and blood, both removing blockages of feeder channels and increasing the flow to downstream channels.
Through our clinical experience and fundamental research, we now know that acupuncture at points on the channels sends signals to the central nervous system. This is essential for treatment to be effective. The patient should have a sensation of “DeQi” (soreness, numbness, tingling…), and the acupuncturist should feel a quick pull or grab on the needle at the time of “DeQi”. This is how we know that the points and channels have been activated.
There is often overlap between Chinese medicine theory and Chinese Kung Fu, especially QiGong and TaiChi exercises. From ancient times the goal of all Chinese Kung Fu was to create automatic responses in the body to external stimuli, to align physical movement with mental focus allowing for maximum efficiency and power. Thus many martial art forms are also designed in accordance with the channel theory of Chinese medicine. For modern day athletes and active people there is much to learn from this wisdom.
In the following posts we will discuss some simple acupressure points and stimulation techniques everyone can use to both prepare the body for exercise and assist in recovery.
Continue on to Lesson 1: The Foot and Ankle
Or skip to Lesson 2: The Knee