CBD and Acupuncture: A Powerful Combination for Sports Recovery and Performance

Author:  Amie Brooke, MSOM, LAc

Sourced From:  Acupuncture Buzz

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is at the forefront of the news lately, with recent leaps in both popularity and recognition. With the June 2018 FDA approval of the first CBD drug for epilepsy, CBD is on its way to becoming a standard household supplement in one form or another—and with good reason, and results.

Increasingly, CBD is being used in conjunction with other treatments, foods, and medicines that can enhance the effects of each other. There is no end to the powerful combinations CBD can create, and now CBD and acupuncture are becoming recommended remedies for sports-related pain and injury.

CBD for Athletes

CBD has long been used to relieve pain and stress as well as chronic symptoms caused by various medical conditions. Likewise, CBD can be used post-surgery as a safe alternative to NSAIDs and other pain medications without potential side effects. Unlike THC, the compound in cannabis that creates a “high,” CBD is non-psychoactive.

Furthermore, the reason behind CBD’s recent boost in popularity is the fact that it mimics the body’s natural endocannabinoid system (ECS). This is the system that regulates hormones, metabolism, immune function, energy, memory, digestion, sleep, mood…the list goes on. In short, the endocannabinoid system is a very important one in the body, and the cannabinoids in cannabis are very similar to those produced within our bodies.

The ECS is essential to homeostasis—the state that the body strives for, a state of balance within all its systems. If something is off in your body, it’s the endocannabinoid system that works to fix it, such as regulating your temperature or telling you to rest. The ECS works hard to balance out each system and keep the pendulum from swinging too far in the opposite direction.

When your ECS is disregulated, the endocannabinoid deficiency can cause conditions such as migraines, fibromyalgia, and IBS. Because CBD regulates, reduces, and treats a host of other symptoms and illnesses, it has been found that increasing cannabinoids in the body helps to minimize pain and inflammation.

When the news hit in September 2017 that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) officially removed CBD as a banned substance, professional athletes worldwide gained access to the natural pain remedy. For many athletes, CBD is the preferred alternative to NSAIDs – not just for pain reduction, but for its ability to speed up healing after sports-related injury and surgeries.

Acupuncture for Athletes

Acupuncture is known for its ability to reduce pain and swelling and is a perfect complement to any athletic routine. From weekend warriors to professional athletes in training, acupuncture and herbal therapy offers active people a holistic, safe method for preventative care, enhanced athletic performance, and injury rehabilitation.

Receiving regular acupuncture treatments during athletic training or increased physical activity can be beneficial in many ways. Some acupuncture points are located at trigger points in the muscles, and these painful areas get relief when they are massaged or needled. Other important points are at motor points, where the nerve innervates the muscle, and others at significant anatomical sites like the nerve-rich areas of tendons and their attachment to the bones. Needling acupuncture points at the various sites of the muscles and tendons can prevent injuries by improving blood flow and circulation to the area.

Many elite athletes and entire sports teams tout the benefits of acupuncture, and even travel with a team acupuncturist to their events – from Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris and Olympic bronze medalist Dee Dee Trotter to the Oakland A’s, the Golden State Warriors and many others. While acupuncture on its own is highly beneficial, it can produce even stronger results in conjunction with herbal therapy, especially when it comes to sports injury and rehabilitation, as well as performance enhancement.

CBD and Acupuncture – A Perfect Match

CBD and acupuncture offer a truly complementary approach. This is due to their shared actions of harmonizing and healing the body on a bio-functional level.

On a broad level, CBD helps to regulate the endocannabinoid system (ECS), while acupuncture balances yin and yang, or homeostasis.

On a direct level, acupuncture stimulates the body through its network of acupuncture points and channels to increase energy, circulation, and immune system function and reduce excesses in the body, such as inflammation; CBD works with endocannabinoid receptors to stimulate physiological processes that minimize pain and inflammation.

It is worth noting that both acupuncture and CBD’s effect on reducing inflammation is by working with the body to promote healing, rather than interrupting the body’s natural response to injury. Inflammation and muscle recovery are natural physiological reactions which can be disrupted by the use of NSAIDs.

Studies have also shown that NSAIDs can delay muscle regeneration and may reduce ligament, tendon, and cartilage healing. Specifically, NSAIDs are believed to wipe out the entire inflammatory mediated proliferative phase of healing associated with white blood cell actions (in days 0–4). Researchers concluded, from a study of the effects of NSAIDs on acute hamstring injuries, that patients who used NSAIDs did not experience a greater reduction of pain and soft-tissue swelling when compared with the placebo group. Remarkably, findings showed the NSAIDs’ group had worse pain associated with severe injuries compared with the placebo group.1

An ideal treatment protocol for sports-related injuries, acupuncture and CBD together can bolster each other’s effects to reduce pain, heal injuries faster and prevent recurrences – with minimal to no side effects.

How Much CBD Should I Take? What kind?

When starting out with CBD, more is not better. Be wary of studies that recommend taking large dosages, because, like acupuncture, CBD works with the body. Rather than a “one and done” approach, CBD can take a little time (and patience) for the body to respond.

Dosage for CBD is on individual basis depending on your weight, body chemistry, diet, and the type of condition you’re trying to treat. CBD is often more alerting in small doses and more sedating in higher doses. It’s best to start with the lowest effective dose (~25 mg, twice daily) and add more as needed until you get the desired results. A typical serving size of a CBD hemp extract by dropper or spray will contain between 10 to 35 mg CBD, depending on the potency you buy. Higher potency CBD products cost more, but require smaller doses.

Generally speaking, practitioners recommend starting with a small dose, such as 10mg, three times daily for a course of ten days. You might find it useful to record your daily experiences in a notebook so you can accurately keep track of your journey and zero in on the product and dosage that work best for you.

Working with a health practitioner who is clinically experienced with CBD versus going it alone can set you up for success. You may find CBD in your medicine cabinet – perhaps even replacing aspirin and ibuprofen – as your go-to choice for health and wellness support.


About the Author:

Amie Brooke, MSOM, L.Ac.

Acupuncturist and sports medicine professional, Amie Brooke has over 20 years of specialized expertise in acute and chronic pain relief, sports injuries, athletic performance, stress management and emotional well-being. She worked for a premier integrative medical clinic in Vail, Colorado, providing injury recovery for elite athletes and weekend warriors and she is also a member of Golden Gate Sports Medicine Orthopedic Group, offering natural pain management alternatives and performance enhancement. Amie also offers onsite corporate wellness events, providing employees and management with treatment for pain, stress relief and long-term wellness strategies.

Amie Brooke, MSOM, LAc