Sports medicine

SPORTS MEDICINE: A Chinese Medical Perspective

By David N. Bole (Lama Losang), Ph.D., A.P.

Athletic injuries can be treated and prevented by massage and acupuncture, a therapy often overlooked by Western medicine. Massage is a highly developed specialty in Chinese medicine. In the People’s Republic of China, there are wards in hospitals devoted solely to massage and manipulative therapy.

Qi Means Energy

According to Chinese Medical theory, all disorders are the result of disharmonies in the flow of Qi, the Vital Life Force of the body. Therefore, all treatment modalities have only two functions:

  • to tonify deficiencies of Qi
  • to sedate excesses of Qi

Both of these functions can be achieved with proper treatment.

In order to understand how and why Oriental medicine works, it is necessary to understand the Chinese theory of traumatic injury

In Chinese medicine, all the functions and activities of the world and of our body-mind-spirit in microcosm are the ebb and flow of Qi. If the Qi is imbalanced, the result would be impaired function.

How then does this relate to Sports Medicine and traumatic injury? Problems and injuries are due to the impaired flow of Qi. A sprain or a strain due to exercise or accident is usually a hot pathogenic condition. Therefore, with this diagnosis, specific techniques are employed to disperse the heat and relieve the excess Qi.

Stagnation of Qi or Blood

Why should I worry about bruises, sprains and strains? It is the view of Chinese Medicine that unattended bruises form lumps under the skin. They may go unnoticed, but they are palpable. They may be round bumps or flat leathery or patches. From the Western point of view, such bumps are the result of increased connective tissue buildup (fibrosis) in the area, localized water retention, edema, or waste material such as blood clots which have yet to be broken down and eliminated. From the Chinese point of view, all such conditions are stagnation of either Qi or blood.

This condition creates a decreased energy flow to the area. If such stagnation is found in one of the major meridians, it is even more important that the condition be eliminated. Blockage or impairment of energy is felt as fatigue, pain and reduced performance. Even a minor scar, adhesion or fibrotic lesion in a meridian or acupuncture point can create a constant drain on the energy. This may, over a period of time, affect the function of the associated organ. Therefore, the old adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” is true.

Treatment of Soft Tissue Injury

Chinese medicine’s primary focus in the treatment of soft tissue injury is:

  1. Relax the tendons, activate the meridians, promote circulation of Qi and blood and relieve pain.
  2. Relieve muscular spasm
  3. Disperse blood stagnation or coagulation and thereby reduce swelling, pain and separate adhesions.

Localized therapy as part of a treatment plan embodies the therapeutic principles derived from an accurate energetic diagnosis.