So how does traditional Chinese medicine fit into the world of sports? Based on our experience, a lot of athletes have utilized acupuncture and other traditional alternative medical practices such as moxibustion and chiropracty. Tennis players, cyclists, triathletes, and other athletes have utilized these methods in the hopes of achieving better performance on field. There has been a lot of studies in accupuncture and its effects on the muscles although the results are actually not promising. The effect seems to be related much more to the placebo effect than for the actual treatment itself. Kean has indeed tried accupuncture and he feels no significant difference in performance during cycling. Other cyclists have conflicting results.
In 2008, a study released in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine aimed to examine accupuncture’s effects on cycling performance. This was a prospective, single-blind, patient as own control (repeated measures), crossover design. Subjects underwent 3 tests a week, riding a stationary bike for 20-km as fast as able. Before each test, they received acupuncture (test A), “sham” acupuncture (test B), and no intervention (control, test C) once each in a random order. SETTING: University of Alberta, Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine.
PARTICIPANTS: 20 male cyclists (age, 18 to 30 years) were recruited via convenience sampling of students and general public. Athletic ability was assessed through a questionnaire and modified Par-Q. INTERVENTIONS: Acupuncture, sham acupuncture, and no intervention in random order with each subject before each test. Acupuncture points were chosen on the basis of Traditional Chinese Medicine and administered immediately before cycling. Sham was shallow needling of known acupoints.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASUREMENTS: The outcome measures of each of the tests were time to completion, VAS for lower extremity/exercise-induced pain, Borg rating of perceived exertion (RPE), and blood lactate concentrations, recorded immediately following each test.
RESULTS: Mean times to Test A, B, and C completion were 36.19 +/- 5.23, 37.03 +/- 5.66, and 37.48 +/- 6.00 minutes, respectively, P = 0.76. Mean RPE scores after tests A, B, and C were 17.65 +/- 0.67, 16.95 +/- 0.99, and 16.85 +/- 0.88, respectively, P = 0.0088. Mean VAS scores after tests A, B, and C were 7.72 +/- 0.86, 7.94 +/- 0.78, and 8.08 +/- 0.69, respectively, P = 0.76.
CONCLUSIONS: The only statistically significant finding was that acupuncture gave higher RPE scores compared to the other tests. The clinical significance was that the higher RPE scores gave lower time and VAS scores.
So what does this study imply? The evidence isn’t strong to support acupuncture to improve athlete and cycling performance. However, it seems further studies will be needed most especially in the neuromuscular aspects of cycling.