Thursday, April 15, 2010

Pins and Needles: Acupuncture and cycling, Tucson-style

A friend of mine recently returned (very tan) from Tucson, and the lucky bastard had spent a couple weeks riding around Arizona. Of course he did the famous Tucson Shoot-Out ride and ran into the infamous "Grey Wolf" a couple of times.
From Missing Saddle - and check out their hilarious interviews with the Grey Wolf
Though he returned with stories about how he'd held his own on the Shoot Out, he also had gotten some acupuncture done to treat a nagging back injury from cyclocross at Acupuncture del Sol run by Claudia "Nanie" Carrillo. A few days ago, I had coffee with a friend and mentioned how my tan friend had gone "under the needle," and she said that she regularly sees an acupuncturist to deal with everything from fatigue and stress to muscle and joint pain.

When acupuncture goes wrong

I'm sold on the benefits of massage but I've never seen a professional cyclist post-race on a table with needles stuck all over. Cyclocross and sitting at a desk for long periods of time aren't great for my back. But my two friends (both avid and excellent racers) swore by acupuncture's effectiveness. I decided to try it out, called a recommended place and made an appointment.

Not knowing what to expect, the acupuncturist began by asking me about my bowl movements - had I done the emunctory testing I posted a couple days ago, I might have had more detail to give him. "Why does my poop have anything to do with my back?" And he kind of shook his head. Western medicine, the pill-popping Walgreens version that I so often use, focuses on localized treatment. Have a headache? Pop a pill. In contrast Chinese/Oriental medicine is holistic. In other words, he wanted to know all about my body before addressing my back. We then chatted a bit about how acupuncture can be beneficial for athletes: reducing spasms, swelling and inflammation. He inserted needles not only in my back but all over my body - hands, legs, forhead - and I relaxed for a half hour.

Afterward he gave me some green tea and explained a little more about acupuncture. Each internal organ relates to a different aspect of the body:  heart to blood, the spleen to muscles, kidney to bones, and the liver to tendons. Treating the organ meant was an attempt to fix the my aches and pains before they expand across my body. He also said that another concept of acupuncture is balancing the body which was especially important for athletes. Imbalance led to ineffectiveness. Balance led to better performance. Leaving the clinic, my body felt light, tingly and relaxed. I made a follow-up appointment.

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