Can Oriental medicine improve sports performance?

Q: Can acupuncture and Chinese herbs be used to enhance a person's game as in golf or maybe something more physical like football or athletics?

A: Yes it can and very successfully as well, the Chinese have been using acupuncture for this very reason for hundreds of years. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal formulas are used to enhance various aspects of a person’s health from physical endurance to strengthening sexual energy or in cases of anaemia strengthening blood.

In the area of sports performance, Traditional Chinese Medicine is second to none, and is now widely used in sports colleges and institutions throughout the Western world. Regular acupuncture will improve muscle tone and increase the efficiency of the cardiovascular system as well as in the treatment of injuries and musculoskeletal and constitutional imbalances, and is often effective for relieving muscle pain and spasm and improving circulation to tense or injured tissues.

By truly understanding Eastern philosophy patterns of qi, blood and body fluids, one can identify specific predisposing/pre-existing factors that may inhibit an athlete's optimal performance. Integrating traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) individually, we can identify and prevent the athlete's anticipated potential to develop dysfunctions that inhibit optimal athletic performance. The integration of the Oriental medicine perspective can significantly influence sports performance and assist in injury prevention by understanding how it can be incorporated into an athlete's training regimen, cycle and/or environmental pattern, and is an important variable to be considered within a sports performance consultation.

At the 1993 Chinese National Games, nine Chinese women runners broke nine world records. In the 10,000-metre race, the previous record was broken by 42 seconds, an unbelievable time. The new 1500 metre record holder had been 73rd at the same distance the year before. Journalists and other athletes around the world took notice and accused the team of using steroids, even though the runners all passed steroid tests and there were no other indications of steroid use, such as acne or highly defined muscles.

A press conference was held where Ma Jun Ren, the team coach, enraged by these accusations, held up a box of Chinese herbs he credited with his team's performance. It was derived from cordyceps, a traditional Chinese herb used for generations as a lung Qi tonic.

At the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, American pole vaulter Kory Tarpenning took two Chinese herb formulas, one containing deer antler which is rich in natural testosterone-like molecules and the other containing nine different types of ginseng. He did this to prevent pre-event jitters that had previously hampered his performance while at the same time avoid feeling sedated. He finished in 4th place and attributed his improved performance to the use of these herbs.

Based upon these as well as other experiences, many professional and amateur athletes use both acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine as a part of their training and conditioning programme. A lot of my current patients are also athletes and they all report-increased performances in their various disciplines after having treatments.

Kim McMenamin Dip.Ac. Lic.Ac. C.Ac. China MQP is a registered licensed practitioner of Chinese Medicine. Treatments are VHi, BUPA and HSA approved. E mail him at or write to him at the Natural Health Centre, Millfield, Buncrana, Tel. 074/9362606, From North 00353749362606 or at The Traditional Chinese Medical Practice, 5 Academy Court, Oliver Plunkett Rd., Letterkenny, Tel. 0749160942, from North 00353749160942