Michael L Gross, MD  
Male, 64
Hackensack,Westwood, NJ

Specialties: orthopedic surgery, sports medicine

Interests: Orthopedics, Knee and Shoulder Arthroscopy
Active Orthopedics & Sports Medicine
Hackensack, NJ
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Oct 09, 2011 - 7 comments

Acupuncture and Sports Medicine
More and more injured athletes are turning to alternative medicine to treat their aches, pains, sprains and strains.  Chief among these modalities is acupuncture. Acupuncture has a very successful record with sports injuries.  More and more professional sports teams have put acupuncturists on their medical staff to accelerate healing and to resolve stubborn injuries. .Acupuncture remains one of the primary means of quick healing for the martial arts. Specific acupuncture styles and techniques were developed to stop pain and dramatically increase recovery time. This tradition continues today and its use has expanded into competitive athletic and sports that result in every type of injury. Acupuncture is used effectively to reduce the pain and inflammation of sports injuries.  It has also been shown to increase range of motion and accelerate healing time.  Acupuncture can benefit athletes at any level, in all phases of injury: to prevent, to treat acute pain, swelling and spasms, and to address conditions that make athletes vulnerable to re-injury.  In terms of modern western medicine, studies have shown that acupuncture increases blood circulation to specific areas of the body, which not only promotes healing of sports injuries but could also boost athletic performance.
The January 2008 issue of the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine observed the effects of acupuncture on cyclists.  Participants were divided into three groups that either received acupuncture, sham acupuncture or no acupuncture prior to periods of high-intensity cycling.  The study revealed that the group who received acupuncture that adhered to the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine had a higher performance scores and rode faster than their counterparts.
A study conducted at the Beijing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine in which athletes received acupuncture after running three miles revealed quicker heart rate recovery than those in the control group.
Recently, a Johns Hopkins University study found that people with chronic tendinitis or arthritis who had 20-minute acupuncture sessions twice a week for 6 weeks had less pain and disability than people who only thought they were receiving acupuncture, but were receiving placebo treatments where the needles didn't penetrate the skin.
Additionally, a 2008 study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that participants who received acupuncture therapy for muscle soreness 24 and 48 hours after they exercised to exhaustion reported significantly less pain than people who didn't receive the treatment.
In the most basic explanation,the underlying premise of acupuncture lies in understanding the energetic system of the body, which consists of Chi.
Chi is the energy which circulates throughout the body and is responsible for the proper balanced and harmonious functioning of all of the organs and processes of the body. When the Chi or energy becomes blocked or deficient, or travels in the incorrect direction, then disease is the result.
By strategically placing the acupuncture needles in different points along the meridians or energy conduits of the body, the acupuncturist is able to direct the flow of this Chi, to unblock the meridian of “stuck” energy, or to control the increase or decrease or balance of Chi throughout the body.  This is not unlike unclogging an artery that delivers blood and nutrients to the heart to prevent a heart attack.
In modern western terminology, there are several theories which might explain acupuncture's effectiveness for pain control. One such theory postulates that the acupuncture needles trigger the release of endorphins, or neuro-chemicals in the brain, which are responsible for the feeling of well-being.
Some common injuries and diagnoses that fall under usual treatment of Sports Medicine specialists include: medial & lateral epicondylitis, frozen shoulder, plantar fascitis, acute olecranon bursitis, acromioclavicular joint separation, rotator cuff tendonitis, osteoarthritis of all joints, bicepital tenosynovitis, lumbar disc herniations,  patellofemoral syndrome, Osgood Schlatters syndrome, ankle sprains, shin splints,musle contusions and others.  In addition, acupuncture can be a valuable aid in relieving post operative pain and inflammation after surgical treatment for sports medicine, or is used as an adjunct to tradional physical therapy. The key here is that eastern and western medicine can be used together, and that in doing so they will give a better result.
Acupuncture is an effective treatment for Sports Injuries because it reduces pain, increases range of motion, increases recovery and healing time, and strengthens weakened parts of the body. These effects are accomplished during treatment because acupuncture:
• decreases inflammation
• reduces swelling
• relaxes muscles and relieves spasms
• decreases bruising
• lowers the body’s pain response
• improves local blood circulation to increase delivery of nutrients and removal of noxious elements
Acute injuries need to be properly assessed before any type of treatment can begin. Most musculoskeletal sports medicine injuries are evaluated by an orthopedist before treatment begins. When necessary, xrays and MRI can be used to reach an accurated diagnosed.  As traditonal treatment progresses Acupuncture proceeds along a parallel track. Acupuncture should then begin as soon after an injury as possible for the best results. Acupuncture treatment is also started with a full evaluation and examination.
Acupuncturists classify acute injuries as Excess conditions. In other words, there is an excess physical response (too much pain) or an excess biochemical reaction (too much inflammation or swelling). If Acupuncture treatment is given soon after an injury occurs, this encourages the body to correct this excess in a rapid fashion. An improvement is usually noticed after one or two treatments. If an injury is not very severe, 3-4 treatments can resolves the condition.
Right after an acute sports injury happens it is helpful not to forget the acronym RICE. Each letter stands for one of the four steps to follow immediately after an injury: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. This will help quicken recovery and provide short term relief. Remember, Acupuncture is not a substitute, but an addition to traditional treatments that work.
Chronic injuries also need to be properly assessed before any type of treatment begins. It is important to determine if there is an underlying structural cause for a lingering injury such as a loss of cartilage, formation of scar tissue or degenerative damage of any kind. Once the complete underlying framework of the injury is understood, an acupuncture treatment plan can be devised to address both the main symptoms and their causes. This may include acupuncture treatments, Chinese herbal formulas, stretches and exercises, diet modifications and the use of liniments or balms. Corrective exercises can be provided in conjunction with a physical therapist or athletic trainer. Again, traditional western medicine is used side by side with acupuncture.
Acupuncturists classify chronic sports injuries as Deficient conditions. Deficiency refers to a weakness or lack. Over time, unresolved sports injuries lead to areas losing strength, flexibility and stability. Instead of focusing on removing excesses, acupuncture for chronic conditions focuses on invigorating and strengthening specific parts of the body. This is done while also decreasing the pain that commonly accompanies most chronic sports injuries.
It is more difficult to generalize the length of treatment for chronic conditions.  Even so, a person should notice a positive change in his/her specific condition within 8 to 10 treatments, although many chronic injuries respond quickly to acupuncture. After which, an accurate prognosis for complete resolution of the problem can be given.
Acupuncture and Sports Medicine are ideal team mates.  Many Acute sports injuries result in pain caused by inflammation and swelling. Acupuncture is the perfect modality for treatment without risk of harmful side effects. When surgery is necessary, acupuncture can reduce pain, increase healing, and reduce down time. For chronic injuries, acupuncture can not only reduce symptoms, but can aid in the resolution of the underlying causes. By increasing strength, flexibility, and range of motion, performance is ultimately improved.

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572651 tn?1530999357
by Lulu54, Oct 13, 2011
Dr. Gross,
It is great to see a doctor endorsing the use of acupuncture - it seems to rarely happen that a medical doctor talks about acupuncture because it is so misunderstood.  I use acupuncture to control symptoms of my MS t and o compliment my western medicine treatments.  Acupuncture gives me immediate relief and I don't hesitate to recommend it to others.  Now if only we could get insurance companies to understand the benefits and extend coverage to help with the cost. Thanks for sharing these thoughts.

MS forum co-CL

Avatar universal
by Christine MarcarianBlank, Oct 24, 2011
Working with Dr. Gross at the Active Center for Health and Wellness, many patients have been successful recipients for acupuncture.  

One of the ways acupuncture for sports medicine and injuries is often effective is through acupuncture trigger point therapy.  Trigger points are exquisitely tender points along a connective tissue plane that refer pain to another region in the body.  The idea that a problem is located at the location of the pain is a frequently missed opportunity to solve a particular problem. Many conventional treatments focus on the location of the pain. The actual cause can often be a trigger point that is not located directly where the pain is experienced.
An example of a common sports injury that skilled acupuncturists treat well is plantar fasciitis.  Plantar fasciitis is an often painful inflammatory process of the plantar fascia, the connective tissue on the sole (bottom surface) of the foot.

A skilled acupuncturist in trigger point therapy will examine the fascia under the foot and its related acupuncture meridians, acupuncture points and trigger points.   They will also look at the temperature of the foot – is it hot or cold to the touch?  and ask other questions such as is the patient getting a lot of headaches?  Do they have low back pain? Is the injury chronic or acute? What about the abdomen?  How is their digestion?  Their cycle?  Moods? (Yes, moods).  Are they sleeping well?  These are all questions that help an acupuncturist figure out how to come up with a treatment protocol.  Once the acupuncturist has completed the intake and determined a constitutional treatment (to support some of those seemingly unrelated things like moods, headaches and digestion), they will check for trigger points in the soleus muscle.
Janet Travell in "Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual," says, “Occasionally, one sees such totally unexpected patterns of pain referred from TrPs in other muscles, which emphasizes the importance of obtaining a detailed and comprehensive pain history.”

Where do trigger points come from?  
Misuse, overuse, stress and injuries.

Is acupuncture trigger point therapy the only way to treat injuries?  
No, trigger point therapy is only one way an acupuncturist can treat a sports injury.  Traditional acupuncture therapy, electro-stimulation, heat, cold, cupping, massage are all other methods a skilled acupuncturist may use in order to help aid a patient in recovery from a sports injury.  

How can I find a skilled acupuncturist in trigger point therapy?
When going to see an acupuncturist, ask if they have had any training in trigger point therapy.

Christine Marcarian LAc

Avatar universal
by Travis826, Nov 07, 2011
Thanks for a very informative article.  I would love to be able to use some of the information from the studies you've mentioned.   I've located the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine and the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine articles but I'm unable to locate info on the John Hopkins and Beijing University studies.  Would you mind sharing the citations for those studies?

Best Regards,

Travis Beto LAc

Avatar universal
by tahera252, Mar 20, 2012
Thanks for an in-depth article. Very informative indeed!
Manhattan Sports Medicine

Avatar universal
by saca96, Aug 16, 2012
Would Accupunture help a joint injury  that i have had for three years to middle knuckle joint.

Should it get looked at by an orthopedic ? or leave it alone again its been messed up for three years its all thanks to a person puposely (Basicaly a group of Bullies) punching my hand and it was not until i heard a loud pop sound and almost  immediatly it turned black is bluish. Every so often it will go cold and turn a purplish bluish color

IF some one can post their ideas that would be awsome really it would.

Avatar universal
by AgreatRescue, Apr 09, 2015
This is a very good read. I've been suffering for the longest time with back pain due to a basketball accident a few years ago. I've been told about acupuncture and compassionate healing and was very skeptic about it. I visited this doctor in Beverly Hills (Dr Jacklin Arastouzadeh in Wilshire Blvd) by a friends' referral and it somehow works for me. I visited her a couple of times and it made me feel better although I still have to see the full effect and hoping for my full recovery. I can say so far so good. Keeping my fingers crossed.

973741 tn?1342342773
by specialmom, Sep 17, 2019
Thanks for this interesting blog post.  I have two teenage sons who both participate in sports and have had issues.  I'm wondering how acupuncture is used to treat muscle aches from endurance sports.  I also have a son who has an area that often hurts on the lower side of his back.  He is a young teen who runs competitively on a Varsity squad and at the same time plays school soccer and club soccer in the off season.  He probably has 3 hours a day on some days of intense training.  And my other question is if acupuncture helps other things.  I have a friend that recommended it for weight loss.  Any thoughts on this?  

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