Sports Acupuncture - Treatment for Muscle Sprain & Sports Injury

Sports Acupuncture

What is Sports Acupuncture?

Sports Acupuncture is a modern branch of Acupuncture for the treatment of acute and chronic injuries that arise from the playing of sports such as running, cycling, football, soccer, Crossfit, weightlifting etc. Sports injuries can potentially affect all levels of athlete, be they a weekend warrior or a high level athlete. Although injuries can be expected if you play sports long enough, you don't have suffer through the pain of them. The use of Acupuncture and Dry needling  for sports injuries can be an effective treatment methods for the management  of chronic and acute pain, such as knee, shoulder, neck and back pain.

Common Sports Injuries

Different types of sports injuries are more common with some sports than others. At our acupuncture clinic we notice calf, ankle and knee injuries more commonly with soccer players;  achilles, foot and hamstring injuries with runners; hip, back and neck issues with cyclists; and groin and rotator cuff injuries with footballers. At our Acupuncture and Dry Needling clinic we are experienced in treating sports injuries. We also understand that not only is it important to keep you playing, but also to work on the the root cause and to minimise the sports injury affecting your non sporting life.

Muscle sprains and ligament strains are another common sports injury where acupuncture may offer a solution to help with the management of pain and discomfort, there is some preliminary evidence that the use of acupuncture within emergency rooms for the treatment of acute ankle and back sprains and strains can alleviate pain as effectively as medication(1)(2)(3)(4).

Treating Sports Injuries 

Minor sports injuries can initially be managed simply with first aid


  • Rest

  • Ice (only initially)

  • Compression

  • Elevation

  • Referral

Many of us may be familiar with this acronym used in first aid. A recent addition was the inclusion of an additional R for referral. If a sports injury is not responding or it is more serious referring to another practitioner for Acupuncture to help with the sports injury recovery. A  GP or even the emergency room may be also be appropriate.

Acupuncture for Sports injury


Conventional Treatment for Injuries and Muscle Sprains

Conventional treatment of sports injuries may include physiotherapy, rehabilitative exercise, pharmacotherapy and in more serious cases referrals to orthopaedic or neurosurgeon for further interventions or investigations. In the past rest was often suggested as a way of managing sports and other injuries. Now the general view seems to be that monitored exercise and activity should be encouraged as part of the healing process.

Acupuncture Treatment for Sports Injuries and Muscle Sprains?

Acupuncture is effective for treating sports injury and pain. A body of evidence has developed and grown showing that acupuncture is an effective approach to the management of pain and injury. Dry needling also has some positive evidence to support its use, but compared to Acupuncture, Dry needling is in its research infancy.

Acupuncture may be useful to aid with:

We have linked some articles and research to each of those areas of the body should you require additional information about how acupuncture may help your pain and injury.

Getting Back to Playing Sports with Acupuncture

Taking steps to manage pain and injury are the some of the first steps towards returning to your sport. Typically during a session the acupuncturist will ask you about your injury, how it occurred, what caused it and various other particulars pertaining to it, such as any limits to your range of motion, exacerbating and relieving factors. The Acupuncturist will then ask some additional questions to get a broader idea of your health history. They will likely palpate the affected and surrounding areas, perform some musculoskeletal and additional tests. The acupuncturist will discuss with you their treatment plan and then start treatment once gaining your consent.

Treatment may include a combination of acupuncture, cupping, electro acupuncture, massage and/or moxibustion, along with some advice of how to manage the pain and even some suggestions for pain management activities. In Chinese medicine we see the body through a different lens, as such you may find we may use both local treatment, at the site of the sports injury, and distal treatment, away from the site of the injury. We may also suggest some Chinese herbs or external ointments or liniments that could be used.  The acupuncturist may even refer you back to your GP or onto another physical therapist for additional support and investigation regarding your sports injury recovery. Your experience is different from the next persons and will require a personalised approach to treating your sports injury.


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1. Liu LL, Lu J, Ma HF. [Clinical Trials for Treatment of Acute Lumbar Sprain by Acupuncture Stimulation of "Yaotong" and Local-points in Combination with Patients' Lumbar Movement]. Zhen Ci Yan Jiu. 2017;42(1):72-5.

2. Cohen MM, Smit V, Andrianopoulos N, et al. Acupuncture for analgesia in the emergency department: a multicentre, randomised, equivalence and non-inferiority trial. Med J Aust. 2017;206(11):494-499.

3. Du WB, Bao GA, Quan RF. [Impacts on analgesia and detumescence in ankle sprain treated with acupuncture at Xiaojie point combined with tendon-regulation manipulation]. Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2014;34(7):647-50.

4. Liu L, Huang QM, Liu QG, et al. Effectiveness of dry needling for myofascial trigger points associated with neck and shoulder pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2015;96(5):944-55.