Select Page

The foundation of bodybuilding is determination; going to the gym at regular intervals, completing an entire scheduled routine, and pushing yourself to do a little better every day. The hardest part about retaining this determination, though, is how draining muscle fatigue can be. DOMS, or delayed onset muscle soreness, is the soreness that you feel hours after a visit to the gym. DOMS happens for various reasons, all of which can be counteracted if you prepare your body properly. Most professional athletes take ice baths and rest extensively to deter DOMS, but many are looking at other methods. Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers is one of a number of professionals who use acupuncture to either maintain or increase their athletic ability.

Acupuncture is recognized by the World Health Organization, or the WHO, to aid in the reduction of knee and neck pain, as well as treating tennis elbow. The foundation of this is acupuncture’s ability to increase blood flow, limit production of lactic acid, and increase levels of adenosine.

What are the challenges of muscle development?

Building muscle requires more than simply spending time at the gym. At the very core of muscle growth is proper nutrition and ample rest periods that allow a muscle to heal and grow. Without proper nutrition your body will not have the resources to heal a muscle.  Without enough time to recover your body will not have a chance to use the resources properly.

When a muscle contracts while lifting weights, it receives hundreds of tiny tears. The muscle then signals for the rest of the body to send nutrients necessary for the healing process of these tears. These tears turn into scar tissue that increases the size of the muscle and its ability to contract. This, in turn, allows an individual to lift, push, or pull more weight. While acupuncture cannot help an individual eat a more nutritious diet, it may increase the speed and efficiency of recovery.

Isn’t Acupuncture based on spiritual ideas?

Acupuncture is a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM, that has roots reaching back thousands of years. It is based around the flowing of Qi, pronounced chee, the essential energy of life, through your body. Your Qi travels along pathways called meridians that flow all over your body. Qi manifests in five vital substances, each associated with a different part and function of your body. These include:

-Jing, which is associated with your bones, muscles, and overall body composition;

-Xue, which is associated with your blood and it’s nourishing properties;

-Jin ye, which is associated with the fluids in your body aside from blood;

-Qi, which is associated with the overall energy of your body and the energy the other vital substances receive;

-and Shen, which is associated with your mind, specifically your ability to perceive and understand.

An individual’s lifestyle can impact the flow of your overall Qi around the body, and how well these vital substances perform their duties. Acupuncture, historically, has focused on the health benefits of assisting the flow of Qi around the body. This is attained by stimulating certain areas in which Qi can pool due to environmental influences. These influences can be improper diet, improper exercise, or environmental toxins, among other things.

How can acupuncture help muscle development?

While acupuncture is based in spiritual beliefs, it has a strong presence in the physiological world. Studies in western medicine have shown that acupuncture may affect the various biological processes that influence muscle development. The most important of these is the increase in circulation, and in turn white blood cells, that acupuncture can trigger. Through these benefits, the body recieves a more efficient recovery cycle.

On a minute scale, acupuncture induces the bodies natural healing system in a mild, targeted manner. The small, localized incisions trigger the body’s natural healing response. This results in increased blood flow and white blood cell count to the affected area. On a larger scale, acupuncture point ST36, located slightly below the knee, is believed to have a positive influence on blood flow throughout the entire body.

Have there been any medical studies on acupuncture?

Due to its popularity in North America, acupuncture has been the subject of multiple scientific studies. Many of these studies have found that acupuncture has positive results on bodily functions, namely the prevention of muscle atrophy. A 2011 study conducted at Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan, found that acupuncture aided in prevention of muscular atrophy in lab mice. The study suspects a correlation between acupuncture and the increase in protein synthesis and a decrease in protein degradation. This results in muscles maintaining their structure for longer periods of time.

Acupuncture has also been shown to potentially affect levels of lactic acid following a workout. Lactic acid is an organic acid found in the bloodstream after carbohydrates break down when blood oxygen levels are too low. A 2009 study done by The American Journal of Chinese Medicine observed a group of basketball players at set intervals following an exhaustive run on a treadmill. The study found that players who received acupuncture treatments at their PC6 and ST36 acupuncture points had a lower resting heart rate and lower levels of lactic acid after 30 minutes of rest.

What is adenosine (ATP)?

Adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, is a naturally occurring chemical that facilitates the transmission of energy within cells. It also promotes vasodilation, or dilation of blood vessels and veins. Adenosine is effectively the chemical that transports the energy created by digestion and facilitates the contraction of muscles – the basis of working out. Acupuncture treatments involving acupuncture point ST36 have been shown to increase levels of ATP in the bloodstream. When electroacupunture was used, the effects were even more pronounced.

Are there other TCM treatments that can help build muscle?

If acupuncture sounds too intimidating, another TCM treatment that may present similar results is ‘cupping’. Cupping promotes proper flow of Qi throughout the body, similar to acupuncture. The treatment utilizes glass cups that are vacuum sealed onto your body through the careful use of burning cotton balls. Cupping may help with blood flow and pain relief when used routinely. It is often compared to deep tissue massages that competitive bodybuilders and powerlifters get to maximize their muscle development.

If you are looking to try new ways to help build muscle, or if you are interested in learning more about acupuncture or cupping, come visit Milena Nikolic at artkarma in Barrie, Ontario. You can also send an email to, or call 705 728 9999 with any questions, and follow artkarma on social media.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This