The scoop: Needle phobes, be warned. Acupuncture, a procedure that’s been around for thousands of years, most commonly involves inserting very thin metallic needles into the skin to stimulate specific points on the body. Traditionally, this practice draws on techniques that have evolved from ancient Chinese, Japanese or Korean practices. Within the realm called Eastern Medicine, acupuncture focuses on Qi, or the energy that flows around the body. By targeting specific points on meridians, a system of “rivers” mapped on the body, acupuncturists aim to restore smooth Qi flow when it is blocked or otherwise compromised.
Another treatment often mistakenly called “acupuncture” is dry needling, or “dry needle acupuncture.” Dry needling involves poking holes in trigger points or areas with poor blood supply, such as tendons. This “creates a controlled pro-inflammatory response,” Sheridan says, to promote healing.
The science: As the World Health Organization reported decades ago, acupuncture can decrease pain associated with running injuries. Some studies show that both real and “sham” (or placebo needles) acupuncture reduce pain, but others show a marked difference in “real” acupuncture.
Best for treating: ITB syndrome, runner’s knee, plantar fasciitis, Morton’s neuroma, tight hamstrings and piriformis issues. Plus strains, drains and tears, says Lolane Glundal, an acupuncturist and runner in Manlius, N.Y. “It can’t repair a tear, but can help a person through surgery if that’s the case,” she says. “It’s about strengthening neighboring channels to support the injury.”
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