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Acupuncture For Muscle Spasms and Strains in Athletes

By: Vanessa Vogel Batt L.Ac. MSOM

Athletes, especially Olympians, are notorious for straining and overworking muscles and, at times, causing some serious damage. It's not just during the game that muscles can endure direct hits or tears that lead to bruising, swelling and tenderness, it's during training too.

In some cases, other structures in the body sustain an injury, which negatively impacts the surrounding muscles. For example, a pinched nerve in the spinal column can cause the supporting musculature to go into spasm.

This tension and contraction of the muscles is a protective measure designed to safeguard the original spinal injury. Unfortunately, the spasms can continue for too long and ultimately cause further trauma. If proper treatment is not administered post-haste, this can undermine performance and leave athletes vulnerable to more injuries.

To treat their bruised and battered muscles, to minimize injury, and to maximize performance, many athletes—professional and amateur alike—turn to acupuncture and Oriental medicine.

A longer acupuncture needle for athletes experiencing mild to severe spasms may be used to pierce the heart of the offending muscle.   This needle technique involves quick thrusting motions, generally in an up and down or slightly side-to-side direction, to attenuate the rigidity from the contracted muscle. Releasing tension in the muscles relieves pain and allows for proper mobility.

The general idea of using acupuncture needles to address muscle pain and tears is to bring robust blood flow to the area. This breaks up stagnation and helps reduce inflammation. Vigorous blood circulation allows toxic waste materials to be disposed of quickly, and it delivers an abundance of oxygen and nutrients to repair the damage.

Sometimes a compromised muscle can't take direct needling. A practitioner will instead feel for areas of tension or weakness near the site of the injury. A group of points is selected based on their ability to invigorate the muscle. It may be that some of the acupuncture points chosen are not even on the same side of the body as the injury.

For some athletes, there may not be a specific site of pain or strain, but more of a general sense of weakness and fatigue in some of the muscles in the body. Dabao, also known as Great Enhancement in English, is an acupuncture point that can serve well in these cases.

Located on the spleen meridian, it is designed to energize weak limbs and replace a general sense of lethargy with health and vitality. A meridian serves as the route through which healing energy travels on.

Dabao galvanizes the body into delivering a heavy load of nutrients to reach the outer limbs as quickly as possible. In this way, the muscles are nurtured and physical strength returns.

If you have a sports-related muscle injury, contact a practitioner to learn how acupuncture and Oriental medicine can help you!

Muscle Pain. (2019). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from

Hoffman, M. The Seven Most Common Sports Injuries. WebMD. Retrieved from

Sfara, M. (2013). The Use of Acupuncture in Sports Medicine. Utah State University. Retrieved from

About the Author: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM, studied at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and practiced acupuncture and Oriental medicine in New York for several years. Vanessa enjoys traveling the world, and has published articles on acupuncture and Oriental medicine and related health topics for websites and publications in both the U.S. and abroad.

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