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5 Athletes Who Use Acupuncture and Why

Updated on January 27, 2017

Though for years Acupuncture was dismissed among advocates of Western medicine as just another aspect of Chinese Mysticism, it has been gaining more ground lately among Westerners, particularly those who are athletes.

Well-known Olympic, MLB, NFL, NHL, and other athletes around the nation are quickly discovering the huge benefits of using Acupuncture as a natural treatment for pain, tension, and injury caused by overtraining.

Not only does it deal with the negative effects of constant competing and training, but it enhances the overall functions of the body by increasing circulation and promoting the rest and relaxation needed for the body to repair itself. For this reason, athletes use it to help keep them in top shape to reach peak performance on game day.

Here are a few well-known, very successful athletes who use Acupuncture on a regular basis.

Dee Dee Trotter

Olympic Gold Medalist Runner

De'Hashia Tonneck ("Dee Dee") Trotter is a two-time Olympic gold medalist in the 4x400 meter relay and former NCAA national champion for the 400meter. She is also the founder of a non-profit organization called "Test Me I'm Clean," which fights the use of performance-enhancing drugs and steroids in athletics.

With so many of her competitors resorting to substance abuse in order to up their performance, the question is how does Dee Dee continually make huge career wins without the same kind of enhancement?

Dee Dee was first introduced to acupuncture when she was suffering from inexplicable muscular issues. Her coach introduced her to Bret Moldenhauer, a professional acupuncturist. Ever since her first treatment, acupuncture has become a regular part of her training and recovery routine.

At the 2012 Olympics in London, Dee Dee brought her acupuncturist with her to the games to help her stay in top condition during her races.

Vincenzo Nibali

2014 Tour de France Winner

Vincenzo Nibali is the 2014 Tour de France winner, racing for team Astana, and a huge advocate of Acupuncture.

His acupuncturist, Eddy De Smeldt spent 5 years studient TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) in China and Belgium, and has now been practicing acupuncture for 12 years in his hometown near the capital of Brussels.

Eddy works alongside team Astana's doctor (Dr. De Maeseneer) in Belgium, using sports acupuncture to help the athletes relieve pain, stress, and tension to their minds and muscles as they train for big races.

His treatments played a big part in Team Astana's win of the Tour de France in 2014, with his patient Vicenzo Nibali taking first place!

Michael Phelps

Most Decorated Olympian of All Time

Michael Phelps, hardly needs an introduction. He is the most decorated Olympian of all time, earning 28 medals as a competitive swimmer for the American team.

There was a lot of hype at this year's games in Rio surrounding the large marks on Michael's shoulder and back that formed in perfect circles of bright red. It was later explained that the marks were caused by an Acupuncture technique known as "cupping."

Cupping is a therapy designed to increase blood-flow to the area of the body that is injured and help speed up the healing process.

As Phelps spends almost 6 hours / day training in the water, and additional hours out of the water, he is prone to a lot of muscle injury due to overuse. Acupuncture helps him speed up the recovery process so that he can keep training without injury or pain.

Amy Acuff

Five-time American Olympian

Amy Acuff is a five-time Olympian, competing on the U.S. track and field team. She specializes in the high-jump, which is one of the more injury-prone competitions out there. After recieving a few successful treatments in college, Amy loved the effects of acupuncture so much that she, herself, became an acupuncturist. She studied even while she was competing.

Not only does she treat herself during training and competitions, but she owns a practice in Austin, TX to help others through injuries and pain.

She uses acupuncture to help her relax and rest when her training and competitions force her to keep an unruly schedule at times. She says that it helps her immune system and offers emotional support under the stress of traveling around all the time.

Like many other athletes, acupuncture helps her to combat the effects of overtraining. It's ability to accelerate healing and promote rest and relaxation so that the body can repair itself has worked wonders for her and for those that she treats in her practice.

This is great news, since she has to balance her time between her competitions, her practice, and being a mother.

Jason Hammel

MLB Pitcher for the Cubs

Jason Hammel first noticed his severe lack of energy after taking a new cholesterol medication. That and his dead arm make it incredibly difficult to compete. Jason was a pro baseball player. He pitched for the Colorado Rockies, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the Baltimore Orioles, the Oakland Athletics, and the Chicago Cubs.

At his wife's suggestion, he tried acupuncture. After a short time of three treatments per week, his arm was as good as new and he was back pitching again. At first he was skeptical, but he stated that after just the first treatment, he couldn't believe how good he felt. Not only was his pitching arm starting to heal, but his energy levels were rising steadily.

Up until recently he was one the 2016 World Series champion Chicago Cubs. He is still an American MLB free agent today.

These are only a few of the athletes who have discovered the success of Acupuncture therapy. Here are just a few others you may have heard of...

  • NFL Fullback, Tony Richardson
  • Pittsburgh Pirates Pitcher, AJ Burnett
  • NBA Shooting Guard, Kobe Bryant
  • NFL Quarterback, Aaron Rodgers
  • NFL Quarterback, Matt Hesselman
  • NBA Houston Rockets Star Forward, Chandler Parsons
  • Former NBA Forward, Grant Hill
  • Olympic Swimmer, Wang Qun
  • NBA Player, Mickael Pietrus
  • Chicago Blackhawk, Ray Emery
  • No. 1 Ranked Tennis Player, Kim Clijsters

Why Does Acupuncture Help?

Acupuncture is a time-tested technique that speeds-up healing, reduces inflammation, relaxes muscles, increases range of motion in joints, and it relieves pain. These are all things that athletes deal with on a regular basis because of their rigorous training routines.

But how does it work? Acupuncture deals with the source of the problem. It activates the body's own self-healing mechanisms that are controlled by the central nervous system. Along the meridians (lines of life-energy that course through your body) are certain points that when triggered, stimulate the nervous system and cause it to increase blood flow to an area of the body.

It also causes your brain to release natural pain-killers such as endorphins by activating the part of your brain that governs serotonin levels. It begins to initiate and/or accelerate your body's natural healing functions, so you don't have to deal with the nasty side-effects of drugs.

Over a 10 - 30 minute session, an Acupuncturist will place very fine needles under the skin of the injured area, or along the meridians that correlate to the area you are experiencing pain or malfunction.

Cupping and Chinese herbs are other methods of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) that Acupuncturists employ to aid in the recovery process.

This is why so many athletes have turned to Acupuncture as a way to aid their pain-relief or injuries due to over-use of muscles during training and competitions.

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