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Acupuncture for sports injuries growing in popularity

Acupuncture for sports injuries growing in popular
Photo: Acupuncture for sports injuries growing in popularity
Acupuncture is the fastest growing allied health therapy in the Western world, according to acupuncturist, Dr Natalie Dalton, who says an increasing number of athletes and sports professionals are accessing the treatment for injury prevention and management.

“Whilst it is mainstream in Asian cultures, the Western world is catching on faster than ever before,” says Dr Dalton.

“Physical and physiotherapists, osteopaths and chiropractors, and even some general practitioners, have been jumping on the bandwagon for at least a decade, and the numbers are growing.

“Suffice to say that in Germany, acupuncture and biomesotherapy (saline based injectables - delivered into acupuncture points) is utilised by the top sports injury doctors, treating the best sporting teams and individual athletes in sports injury management.”
Dr Dalton began practicing deep tissue sports therapies and naturopathy in the late 80s, and says she was soon seduced by the ancient wisdoms of traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture.

“It resonated deeply as a holistic system of health care,” she says.

“With their superior diagnostics and treatment outcomes, we can achieve so much more clinically, without the invasion of surgery or harmful medication for health, wellbeing and pain management.

“After completing my Naturopathic degree and several years in practice, I felt something was missing, so I applied to the University of Technology in Sydney for the Bachelor of Health Science, Acupuncture degree.”

It took six years of full time formal education for Dr Dalton to complete her training in Traditional Chinese Medicine and then, she says, the true learning began in practice.

“Traditional Chinese Medicine is an holistic system of Medicine applicable to the treatment of a wide range of health issues.

“Including my Naturopathic skills, in my practice I treat anything from the common cold to cancer patients.

“The diversity of what integrative medicine can treat is endless.

“The more years in practice obviously means more experience, but it’s a never ending and endlessly stimulating learning journey.”

When it comes to sports management, acupuncture is a highly effective treatment, yet Dr Dalton says around 80 per cent of patients who eventually present, have been to several therapies prior to trying acupuncture.

“Chronic and acute pain, musculo-skeletal injuries, including sports injury management, are commonplace in acupuncture practice,” Dr Dalton says

“But patients are often directed by their GPs to physios first, which can be a frustrating and somewhat disappointing pathway to healing and repairing soft tissue and joint trauma.

“Avoid surgery, and don’t stop at physical and physiotherapy is my recommendation.”

Dr Dalton says the traditional Chinese methodology of treating sports injuries often includes Tui Na (Chinese Massage), cupping, needling, topical herbal poultices, internal herbal medicines and even bleeding techniques.

“There are so many different and effective combined protocols for relieving pain, reducing inflammation and healing tissue,” says Dr Dalton.

“The presence of an acupuncture needle in the tissue is like ringing a bell in the interstitial space, exciting an immune mediated event that initially is inflammatory and that's when the magic begins.

“The needle is a foreign body and acts like a location beacon for your immune system to amass a defence against inflammation, and the cascade of chemical reactions that follows needle insertion activates a healing and repair response to the traumatised tissue in a direct and targeted way, without drugs, massively reducing inflammation, relieving pain and improving mobility.”

When it comes to sports injuries, acupuncture can treat a wide variety of ailments, including:
  • Muscle - bruising (haematoma), spasm, strain, and tears. 
  • Ligament- strain and tears.
  • Tendon – tendonitis and tendinopathy.
  • Bursitis - sub AC shoulder, sub patellar and greater trochanteric.
  • Rotator Cuff injuries.
  • Knee injuries, especially when surgery is controversial, such as Meniscus tears.
  • Spinal injury and trauma to discs, facet joints and ribs.

“Nerve impingement and trauma such as compression from a disc, facet joint or spinal cord injury, can also be treated through acupuncture.

“Acupuncture prevents nerve cell death and is even helpful in stroke patient rehabilitation. The closer in time to the point of trauma or event that the acupuncture is delivered the better the outcome.”

Acupuncture is also beneficial as a preventative measure, by supporting energy, strength, speed, endurance, flexibility, balance, and alignment.”

Along with sports injury management, Dr Dalton believes acupuncture will eventually be included as part of mainstream emergency room care in hospitals for pain relief.

“I personally have worked in the Mater Hospital on Sydney’s North Shore treating cancer patients, as acupuncture can improve patient's quality of life whilst they undergo chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

“ASCO (American Society for Cancer Oncology) recommends acupuncture be included in the management for patients undergoing cancer treatment, as there are many clinically proven benefits.

“This is like a global mandate for oncologists to recommend acupuncture.”

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Nicole Madigan

Nicole Madigan is a widely published journalist with more than 15 years experience in the media and communications industries.

Specialising in health, business, property and finance, Nicole writes regularly for numerous high-profile newspapers, magazines and online publications.

Before moving into freelance writing almost a decade ago, Nicole was an on-air reporter with Channel Nine and a newspaper journalist with News Limited.

Nicole is also the Director of content and communications agency Stella Communications (www.stellacomms.com) and a children's author.