Post-competition recovery with TCM

May 23, 2024
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Recover like a champ with the help of acupuncture.
The intense exhaustion setting in after a competition is not uncommon. Whether you win or not, you want to reward yourself with a good long sleep or maybe binge eat the food you have been avoiding during your training. To some, they prefer to prepare for their next competition right away. Proper recovery after a competition is as important as training. A good recovery treats injuries before they worsen and conditions an athlete's body and mind before their next training cycle.
Active recovery
Low-intensity exercises using the large muscle groups lasting at least five minutes right after competition help the body to relax. This is also a way to avoid DOMS or delayed onset muscle soreness. Be sure to avoid overworking your muscles during this time! Keep in mind that you want to let your body know that the extraneous activity is over so you have to gradually cool it down.
Static stretching
Repetitive powerful contraction of muscles during the competition causes lactic acid build-up which results to muscle soreness. Also part of a cool-down routine, static stretching also relaxes the muscle. Stretching gradually elongates the muscle fibers and returns it to its normal range of motion.
Ice therapy
A literal cooling down of the body, ice therapy or cryotherapy is a common go-to of post-competition athletes. This is also recommended right after your competition to 48 hours post-competition. It can be done by submerging the whole body in an ice bath for around five minutes or wrapping packs of ice around the sore muscles. Cryotherapy reduces the sensation of pain and muscle spasms. It is also an effective way of reducing inflammation when done with compression and elevation on the extremity involved. Remember that it is best to apply cold ONLY on acute injuries and aches.
For thousands of years, acupuncture has been used to treat different conditions and illnesses. That is why there is no surprise that those in the field of sports are also seeking out acupuncturists to treat their injuries and for some, even add acupuncture to their pre-competition regimen. Here at NYC Acupuncture + Wellness, we do not just provide acupuncture treatments but also herbal and heat therapy which is both beneficial for recovery. Read more to know what we can provide to help you with your recovery (and even prepare for your next game!).
Right after the competition:
Reduce pain
Acupuncture sessions can be an adjunct to your active recovery exercises. Treating pain could be done on the actual painful site or it can be treated distally. The main goal is to trigger endorphin release which is the body's natural painkiller. Treating pain with acupuncture could also be done with electric current. Another treatment for aches especially for swelling is herbal soaking. Herbal soak is composed of all-natural ingredients such as essential oils, salts, and herbs. Have a consult with your acupuncturist who is also a certified herbalist to know which herbs will be most beneficial for you.
Increase range of motion
The tightness of the muscle limits the range of motion of a joint. Acupuncture can release that tightness to restore your normal range. You can also benefit from manual therapy if your goal is to increase your range of motion. Manual therapy addresses both pain and ROM depending on its parameters.
During your rest days:
Improve the quality of sleep
Some athletes have difficulty returning to competitions because of prolonged recovery time. Acupuncture can aid in reducing this period by improving an athlete's blood circulation and quality of sleep. Good blood circulation promotes efficient nutrient distribution, especially to injured tissues. Many studies have already proven that good sleep quality is important in recovery. When sleeping, it is the body's time to focus on tissue and cell repair. This is also the time for the body to do "garbage collection and disposal" which means that the body is getting rid of metabolic waste buildup.
Increase rate of recovery
Inflammation is the body's natural reaction to heal itself. However, inflammation sometimes lasts longer than it should. A great way to minimize this is by incorporating natural herbs into your diet to speed up your recovery. Ginger, garlic, and turmeric are just to name a few herbs and spices found in your home that can decrease inflammation. Schedule an herbal consult at NYC Acupuncture + Wellness to know the best set of herbal medications to decrease your recovery period.
During training:
Treat chronic injuries and aches
Oftentimes, athletes get microtrauma on their tissues such as muscles and joints due to repetitive stress on the said structures during training season. When the said injuries are not given ample time to heal, they become chronic.
One way of addressing this is by heat therapy such as applying hot packs, using of infrared lamp or lying on a BioMat. Hot packs provide temporary relief in the area it is applied. The downside of a hot pack is that it does not provide a consistent amount of heat since it loses its heat over time. An infrared lamp is a good alternative since it emits a consistent amount of heat at its set time. If you are aching all over, BioMat is recommended. Not only does it provide heat to relieve pain, but it also triggers the growth of cells to hasten repair in the body. Chronic pain and injuries are best addressed with heat modalities.
Another way to treat muscle sores and spasms is gua sha. You may recognize it more as a jade tool used on the face to decrease puffiness. Originally, gua sha was a tool used to scrape the skin until it produces petechiae or small dark spots beneficial to increasing the recovery of tissues from injury. The light bruising causes microtrauma which signals the body to respond and repair the area. Gua sha can also break muscle knots which you often get after a rigorous day of training. Do it regularly to avoid tightness and injuries from going severe.
Regulate stress and anxiety
Some athletes experience too much anxiety while recovering or during their training season. Others get so stressed that they also experience depression-like symptoms because of the pressure build-up. Usually, having these mental blocks hinders an athlete's performance. It is not only the physical body that needs acupuncture to recover. The art and science of acupuncture can help regulate all of these emotions by sedating the mind and removing irritability. 
Before competition:
Get your head in the game
Surprise, surprise. Acupuncture is here to keep you condition and have that win. Regular sessions of acupuncture have been proven to prevent injuries from getting worse. Recent studies have also shown that it can improve endurance, which is necessary for any athlete. It has been proven to increase cognitive function to help you keep focused and sharp during your game.
NYC Acupuncture + Wellness is more than happy to help you on your sports journey. The services we offer are not limited to acupuncture treatments. Book an appointment with us to learn about how we can help you with your post-competition recovery so you can go back to training better than before.