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Acupuncture has been used in various forms for centuries, and involves the insertion and manipulation of fine needles into specific points in the body. Acupuncture is being used more and more by physiotherapist and other related professionals in the treatment of sports injuries as the body of evidence for it grows. Many physiotherapists working with professional sports teams now use acupuncture, and utilise the effects to decrease healing times and resolve more chronic conditions such as repetitive stress injuries or slowly healing musculoskeletal injuries. Despi te common misconceptions, acupuncture should not be a painful treatment, with only a small sharp pain on insertion of the needle. Treatments may last on average 20-30 minutes, depending on the therapist and the required results. Acupuncture is useful within the

field of sports injury management as it has been shown to be effective

at the reduction of pain as a symptom post injury. It can also be used to decrease inflammation, reduce swelling, reduce spasm within a muscle, and improve blood flow to a particular area in order to remove waste products and promote healing. As wi th any t reatment ,

acupuncture requires an initial assessment of the body to determine what dysfunction has taken place and what structures are involved. It is also important to consider the stage of the injury, as the administration of inappropriate acupuncture points could actually lead to exacerbation of symptoms. When considering acute injuries, acupuncture is most useful when dealing with the symptom of pain. Pain often limits the ability of a player to participate in the rehabilitation required to return to playing. Many studies have investigated the pain relieving effects of acupuncture and there is now a large quantity of evidence

supporting its use. Acupuncture in the acute stage of an injury may be used as a complementary treatment technique alongside the P.R.I.C.E protocol (protect, rest, ice, compression, elevation), appropriate analgesia and anti-inflammatories, manual therapy and taping. Following 3-4 treatment sessions of acupuncture, a reduction in pain and a resulting improvement in function is often observed leading to a quicker return to training. Chronic injuries are longer

term injuries usually described as lasting more than 3 months, and often require a different approach in terms of treatment. Chronic injuries can occur through the poor management of acute injuries, or due to degenerative changes such as a loss of cartilage in the knee joint or repetitive stress injuries. As with acute injuries, acupuncture can be used as a complementary treatment technique in the treatment of chronic conditions, the effects

required from the needle are often different however. Increased localised circulation at the site of needle insertion is utilised in poorly healing tissues to stimulate an inflammatory response and re-initiate the healing process. Chronic conditions, by their nature, often take longer to resolve, and may require more acupuncture treatment sessions to achieve the required outcome. Acupuncture is a growing

treatment technique, and when used by an appropriate professional who has a good understanding of the presenting dysfunction, can help speed the healing process by relieving pain, increasing the circulation to the injured area, bringing down swelling and inflammation, and helping to restore a normal range of motion. It should not be seen as a replacement for existing treatments, but more of a complementary treatment with the overall aim of returning people to their normal level of function within the shortest possible time.

60 / / Issue 4

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