Acupuncture is an ancient healing system that involves inserting thin needles in the body. It has been around for over 2,500 years and is said to treat several ailments, including heart diseases. Researchers have now reviewed four studies on the effects of acupuncture on an individual before and after an exercise-session. Based on their observations, they suggest the therapy can act as a performance enhancer for athletes.
"A study that we reviewed showed the rate of recovery of heart rate and oxygen consumption following maximal exercise was more rapid in athletes who received acupuncture treatment just before the exercise session as compared to athletes who did not receive the treatment," says corresponding author, Birinder Singh Cheema, a senior lecturer at the School of Science and Health of the University of Western Sydney.
The therapy has won the support of several health organisations across the globe, including WHO. The organisation carried out a systemic review of the existing studies on acupuncture in 2003 and identified over 20 diseases it can treat.
"Acupuncture has been found to improve symptoms in cardiac patients. Long-term treatment has been shown to significantly reduce the frequency of heart attacks in individuals with diagnosed chest pain, compared with a placebo pill," says Cheema.
"Even a single session of acupuncture has been found to reduce blood pressure in people with hypertension. These findings have led us to speculate that acupuncture could alter physiological responses to exercise."
Jitendra Uniyal, chairperson of the Acupuncture Cam Therapy Institute in Dehradun, says a marked increase was observed in the stamina of athletes when they underwent acupuncture sessions at the institute.
"Acupuncture treatment on athletes is not restricted to research papers alone. It is used by athletes in the US, Australia, Sweden and Germany. In India, despite submitting several petitions to the government, we have not received any help in implementing the usage of acupuncture for athletes on a larger level."
Integrating complementary and alternative medicines with preventative interventions like exercise can have several health benefits, says Cheema. He, however, cautions that the findings of their study, published on January 14 in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, are preliminary and require more research.
Photograph: Ella Novac
Article courtesy: Indu Mathi S / Down to Earth magazine