By Alex A. Kecskes
Sports teams, athletic organizations, and sports medicine clinics are on the lookout for acupuncturists and oriental massage practitioners. Many have discovered that keeping the body in balance through massage and acupuncture allows for more efficient and effective training, which is the surest way to improve performance.
A wide range of athletes including swimmers, runners and tri-athletes are benefiting from the physical and mental stimulation and inner calmness created by acupuncture treatments. Many insist that acupuncture helps them cross 'the pain barrier,' allowing them to generate the endorphin hormones that lead to euphoric feelings and less pain. This endorphin high, occurring usually after an hour of extreme effort, results after acupuncture. It can get an athlete "in the zone" even before the event starts, creating an enormous psychological advantage, enhancing performance by relaxing tight muscles and increasing blood flow.
Many professional teams now have a full-time acupuncturist on staff. The fact is, many players even seek out individual treatment. Baltimore Ravens safety Will Demps noticed a difference in his balance and agility since receiving treatments. He insists his muscles get "turned on and fire on all cylinders." San Diego Chargers defensive end Marcellus Wiley claims acupuncture helped sustain his health during his "physically grueling career." Other professional athletes that use acupuncture treatments include Steve Young, Jerry Rice, Allan Houston and Brian Russell.
The point is, sports massage can be extremely beneficial to athletes of all levels. It's used by the majority of elite sports teams and individuals on a regular basis. Massage helps to improve circulation and remove toxins from throughout the body. It is also a valuable aid for assisting and enhancing recovery and performance. Massage may even help prevent injuries and accelerate the rehabilitation process. Studies show massage reduces heart rate, lowers blood pressure, increases blood circulation and lymph flow, relaxes muscles, improves range of motion, and increases endorphins (enhancing medical treatment). Although therapeutic massage does not increase muscle strength, it can stimulate weak, inactive muscles and, thus, partially compensate for the lack of exercise and inactivity resulting from illness or injury.
Projections by the U.S. Department of Labor forecast employment opportunities for massage therapists to grow by 18 to 26 percent from 2004-2014. According to the 2006-2007 Edition of the Occupational Outlook Handbook, published by the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, the outlook for employment for massage therapists will "increase faster than average" during the period from 2004-2014. The Bureau defines "faster than average" as "increase 18 to 26 percent."
For those interested in a career as a sports acupuncturist, the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine is the ideal place to learn. Certificate and advanced degree programs (all the way to PhD) are offered in San Diego, New York and Chicago. The College's community-oriented teaching clinic provides students with a professional setting in which to complete their internship requirements. And hands-on internship programs immerse students in a medical team made up of assistants, interns, and licensed acupuncturists. All interns are closely supervised by a highly educated and skilled licensed acupuncturist. The rigorous degree and certificate programs are taught by experts in both traditional Oriental healing techniques and current Western medical practices.