TCM Healing for Common Running Injuries
Running is a common form of exercise and allows individuals to get their blood flowing as it is a type of aerobic exercise. In addition, it can help strengthen an individual’s leg muscles and cardiovascular system and maintain a healthy weight. Despite all the benefits mentioned, it is crucial to ensure a runner is prepared to run to prevent injury. Running injuries may happen for several reasons. Most often, running injuries are due to improper or lack of warm-up, stretching, and uneven surfaces. Common running injuries include but are not limited to shin splints, Achilles tendonitis, and ankle sprains.
The article Sprain: First aid defines a sprain as an injury to a ligament that is stretched or torn, which usually causes symptoms of pain, bruising, swelling, and inability to use the ankle (2022). “Typically result from ankle inversions that damage one or more of the lateral ankle ligaments” (Arnold & Moody, A. L., 2018).
The article Sports Injuries defines an injury in the Achilles tendon as to the result of a stretch, tear, or irritation to the tendon that connects the back of the heel to the calf muscle. The symptoms, such as pain and stiffness on the back of the heel, occur primarily in the morning (2022). When the Achilles tendon is under too much stress or overused, it causes the tendon to tighten and work extra hard, which leads to irritation and inflammation in the Achilles tendon that can later lead to a tear or rupture (Runners World Editors, 2022). More symptoms of Achilles tendonitis include limited ankle flexibility, redness or burning sensation in the area of the Achilles, feeling a nodule on the tendon, cracking sounds when moving the ankle, and limited blood flow in the region (Runners World Editors, 2022).
It is also known as medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS), described as pain and discomfort due to repetitive activity and excessive and forceful use of foot flexors on hard surfaces. It is common for runners who change the mileage levels and surfaces and wear worn-out shoes (Strakowski & Jamil, 2006). According to Sports Injuries, shin splints cause pain along the tibia, a bone found in the front of the lower leg; and can also happen to individuals commencing a new running program (2022).
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Oriental Medicine (OM) describe the injuries caused by running as being due to an imbalance in the body. It usually means too much Qi (energy) in some body regions and not enough in others. For example, foot injuries typically indicate an obstruction in the meridians, which block the flow of Qi, making it difficult for the foot or lower leg to heal without the extra energy (Friedman, 2022). Fortunately, several TCM/OM modalities can help restore balance and Qi in all body areas and effectively heal common running injuries.
Acupuncture is a safe and effective way to redirect energy to the feet, which speeds up the healing process. It may also direct its energy to specific Zang- and Fu-organs, such as the Lung, which is essential for tendons, fascia, and ligaments (Friedman, 2022). It can help reduce swelling and inflammation and aid the body in healing the affected area, such as a shin splint. One specific point effective in healing ankle pain, such as a strained or sprained ankle, is the Xiaojie point, located at the base of the ball of the thumb. Research shows that the ankle may be healed with as few as two sessions (Acupuncture Service for Central New York, n.d.).
Human ears contain a map of the body, and specific points in the ears help restore Qi in various body areas. “Auricular (ear) acupuncture points can be powerful tools to relieve pain and resolve health disorders” (The incredible range of ear acupuncture points, n.d.). Like full-body acupuncture, endorphins and enkephalins are elevated after ear acupuncture (Becker, 2020). For example, the point Shen Men (“spirit gate”) is widely used to reduce inflammation, which may be effective when treating common running injuries (Becker, 2020).
Traditional Chinese Herbs
Herbs may also be an effective way to treat common running injuries. When the cause of the injuries is internal, an individual will benefit from traditional Chinese herbs that focus on supporting the organs that may be lacking. Moreover, when the cause of the injuries is external, an individual may benefit from turmeric, ginger, green tea, and ginseng as they help reduce inflammation (Friedman, 2022).
Moxibustion is a TCM/OM modality that helps regulate Qi and blood, dispel wind and cold, activate meridians, and relieve inflammation and pain. It promotes recovery in the ligaments, fractures, skeletal muscle injuries, tendons, and joints. (Zhang et al., 2022).
Cupping can effectively treat common running injuries, specifically in the calf or shin area. If an individual experiences pain or swelling in the shin, cupping therapy will loosen the muscles and increase blood flow for more mobility and healing (Carter, 2016). Cupping therapy promotes Qi, removes blood stasis and dampness, and dispels wind and cold. It is a safe and simple TCM/OM modality with few side effects, such as skin redness (Zhang et al., 2022).
With many common running injuries, it is important to measure the pain level and listen to your body. While some injuries may require rest, others may require rehabilitation exercises. Some great activities, such as Qi Gong exercises, will activate energy, release tension, and strengthen and support muscles in the lower part of the leg and foot (Holden Qi Gong, 2021).
Common running injuries can be prevented when taking the proper precautions. If you suffer from a running injury such as shin splints, sprained ankle, or Achilles tendonitis, please remember TCM/OM modalities such as acupuncture, acupressure, moxibustion, cupping, and herbal medicine can all be effective treatments. Don’t wait! Make an appointment today with Rapha Acupuncture in Newport Beach to ensure the right treatment plan is chosen for you with the help of our 25-year-experienced TCM/OM doctor.
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Acupuncture point Xiaojie for ankle pain (n.d.). Acupuncture Services of Central New York. https://www.acupuncture-services.com/health-az/arthritis/acupuncture-point-xiaojie-for-ankle-pain/
Arnold, & Moody, A. L. (2018). Common running injuries: Evaluation and management. American Family Physician, 97(8), 510–516. https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2018/0415/p510.html
Becker, L. (2020). Healing with ear acupuncture. Balance Acupuncture - Charleston, SC. https://balancecharleston.com/blog/2020/1/5/healing-with-ear-acupuncture
Carter, D. (2016). 9 things to know about cupping. Courier-Journal. https://www.courier-journal.com/story/life/wellness/health/2016/08/18/9-things-know-cupping/88953360/
Friedman. (2022). Traditional Chinese medicine for foot pain. Arapahoe Chiropractic. https://arapahoechiropractic.com/traditional-chinese-medicine-for-foot-pain/
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2022). Sprain: First aid. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/first-aid/first-aid-sprain/basics/art-20056622
Runners World Editors. (2022). A sore Achilles tendon is a runner's nemesis, but it's pretty simple to prevent. Runner's World. https://www.runnersworld.com/health-injuries/a19574249/achilles-tendon-injury/
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2022). Sports injuries. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/sports-injuries
3 Qi Gong exercises to relieve foot pain (2021). Holden Qi Gong. https://www.holdenqigong.com/3-qi-gong-exercises-to-relieve-foot-pain/
The incredible range of ear acupuncture points. (n.d.). Centenary Natural Therapies Clinic. https://www.cntc.com.au/ear-acupuncture-points/
Zhang, H., Zhao, M., Wu, Z., Wang, X., Jiang, Y., Liang, J., & Chen, H. (2022). Effects of acupuncture, moxibustion, cupping, and massage on sports injuries: A narrative review. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2022, 9467002. https://doi.org/10.1155/2022/9467002