Jerry BrainumFor better gains
Athletes and bodybuilders are always searching for something that can increase athletic proficiency or muscle. One technique that may prove useful, according to a recent study, is acupuncture.1 In acupuncture the skin is punctured with stainless-steel needles in specific zones. Studies show that it can alleviate muscle tension, improve local blood flow, increase pain threshold and moderate the autonomic nervous system.
In a new study two groups of female soccer players were either given acupuncture treatment or not after intense competition. Those in the acupuncture group did not experience the drop in salivary immunoglobulin A that usually results from intense exercise. Immunoglobulin A is an antibody that is thought to help prevent various upper-respiratory infections.
Instead, those in the acupuncture group showed decreased levels of salivary cortisol after exercise. Cortisol is the primary catabolic hormone in the body, meaning that it promotes the breakdown of muscle. Anything that blunts cortisol increase after exercise would favor a stronger response of anabolic hormones, such as testosterone and growth hormone. Cortisol also suppresses the immune response, leading to a greater chance of illness.
The acupuncture subjects had less muscle fatigue and tension than the control athletes. They also reported feeling better and generally were in better moods, experiencing less depression and fatigue.
Precisely how acupuncture produces those effects remains a matter of conjecture. Practitioners frequently say that stimulating certain parts of the body through acupuncture positively affects the body’s autonomic and endocrine systems, which has overlapping effects on other systems, such as immune response.
Acupuncture isn’t suitable for self-treatment. Anyone contemplating trying it needs to consult with an experienced practitioner.
Get the point?
1 Akimoto, T., et al. (2003). Acupuncture and responses of immunologic and endocrine markers during competition. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 35:1296-1302.