Serious runners will leave no stone unturned in their quest for speed, and the latest trend is acupuncture to ease weary limbs, niggling injuries and post-race fatigue. According to the ancient theories of traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture is vital in clearing blockages and helping to balance the body’s yin and yang, as imbalances manifest themselves as illness or pain. It involves practitioners placing a thin, disposable needle into one of more than 2,000 specific points on the body.
Who’s it aimed at?
Any of the 40,000 runners preparing to cover the 26.2 miles from Greenwich to the Mall in the Flora London Marathon, casual runners and sports enthusiasts
What’s the idea?
It is thought that the needles stimulate the brain to release endorphins, boosting mood and relieving tiredness, and trigger the immune system to help to ward off injuries, soreness and joint pain. Several small studies have suggested that it works for runners. One published last year in the journal Chinese Medicine found “significant differences” in muscle soreness among those who had acupuncture during an exhaustive training regimen compared with those who didn’t.
Who uses it?
The marathon superwoman, Paula Radcliffe, admits to being a fan. Athletes in other sports, including the tennis player Maria Sharapova, also use it.
Can I try it?
In the wrong hands, acupuncture can be risky, so make sure your practitioner is registered with the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC). To find someone who is experienced at treating sports people, visit its website www.thehatfieldpractice.com, or call 01707 888229. According to the BAcC spokeswoman Charlotte McNeil, you will need a couple of sessions a week if you are injured. For healthy runners, acupuncture before and after the marathon or sports event will help to restore some normality to your body. Expect to pay around £38 – 40 per session.
Is it worth the money?
If it helps to prevent your muscles from turning to concrete in the days after the race, then bring on the needles.