Conditions Treated with Acupuncture Sports Medicine

Whitfield Reaves has specialized in the treatment of sports injuries, pain, and musculoskeletal disorders for 40 years. He uses an integrated approach of the most effective techniques of traditional acupuncture within the context of a western orthopedic and sports medicine framework. The classical texts of Chinese medicine theory provide us with very intriguing diagnostic insights. However, it is the precision of anatomical and orthopedic point prescription, such as trigger points and motor points, that significantly increase our results, patient by patient, in the clinic. And these are the techniques that we teach in all of our on-line webinars and live seminars.

Sports acupuncture offers many effective therapies, including the following:
  • Orthopedic acupuncture and other sports medicine protocols
  • Treatment of trigger points and other anatomically significant tissues
  • Assessment and treatment of pain due to postural imbalances
  • Electrical stimulation
  • Skilled therapeutic cupping techniques to increase micro-circulation
  • Integrated approaches for the enhancement of athletic performance

Because most rotator cuff injuries refer pain into the deltoid region of the shoulder, and even down the arm and forearm, many practitioners simply put the needles in the wrong places. Yes, it is where it hurts, but not where the problem is! For the untrained acupuncturist, this leads to ineffective treatments along the zone of pain, rather than the primary site of the injury in the rotator cuff itself.

Muscle strain and tears, tendonitis, and inflammation usually respond quite well to the techniques of Acupuncture Sports Medicine. Other injuries that benefit include bicepital tendonitis, frozen shoulder, and shoulder impingement syndrome. While not a complete list, we can effectively treat the following shoulder conditions:
Supraspinatus and infraspinatus tendonitis
AC joint separation, AC joint arthritis
Bicepital tendonitis, biceps tendonosis
Levator scapulae syndrome, including "stiff neck"
Shoulder impingement syndrome
Shoulder bursitis
Pathology to the pectoralis muscle syndrome, including the often-overlooked entrapment of the neuro-vascular bundle
Frozen shoulder, including a variation now being seen in peri-menopausal women

Many upper extremity injuries respond well to the precise techniques of Acupuncture Sports Medicine.
  • Lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow)
  • Medial epicondylitis (golfer's elbow, climber's elbow)
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Arthritis of the wrist, hand, and finger joints

Treatment to the hip is one of our Acupuncture Sports Medicine "favorites". In 1072 AD in China, the Bronze Statue revealed the complete compilation of acupuncture points used today in the 21st century clinic. But 1,000 years ago humans did not have spend hours a day sitting at desks, and of course no driving in automobiles. Pain and dysfunction of the muscles of the back and hip due to prolonged sitting and its resulting postural imbalances were not common, and thus there is virtually no description of acupuncture points in these important muscles of the lumbar and gluteal region.

By integrating trigger points, motor points, and zones that we consider "anatomically significant" due to their proximity to nerves or other vessels, we have developed treatment protocols that are significantly more effective than the centuries-old traditional point prescription. Whitfield Reaves has refined these points to within millimeters of precision, which is described in his books and seminars.

Hip, pelvic and sacral conditions that we treat include:
  • Hip (trochanteric) bursitis
  • Osteoarthritis of the hip joint
  • Sacral-iliac joint dysfunction
  • Piriformis syndrome
  • The sacral-tuberous ligament

A wide variety of knee injuries are commonly seen by those practicing sports acupuncture over the last 20 years. With skiing, running, and even high altitude hiking, the knees just don't seem to be able to escape injury. Anterior knee pain, caused by patello-femoral joint syndrome, is a condition experienced by a growing number a patients over the age of 50. This chronic arthritic syndrome responds to the acupuncture protocols that we both utilize in the clinic and teach in our workshops. With proper and precise technique, the acupuncture needle reaches the sub-patellar (under the knee cap) region. The addition of electrical stimulation or heat (moxibustion) offers treatment protocols that are often extremely effective.

Other acute and chronic injuries to the knee that may be considered for treatment:
  • Ligament sprain (MCL, LCL). Sorry, folks, we just can't get to the ACL!
  • Patellar tendonitis
  • Patello-femoral joint pain, chondromalacia
  • Meniscus injury. Because of the limited blood to the meniscus, this is a very low percentage success rate, despite what other clinics may suggest.
  • Ilio-tibial band syndrome


In our decades of experience with the runner, cyclist, and triathlete, we have obviously seen leg and foot injuries. Lots of them! The following is the short list:
  • Shin splints, both anterior and medial
  • Achilles tendonitis
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Ankle sprain
  • "Big toe" (1st MTP joint) osteoarthritis
  • Morton's neuroma

We also diagnose and treat a number of other lower extremity conditions, including inflammation of the pes anserinus, metatarsalgia, achilles bursitis, and fat pad syndrome.

In general, acupuncture may benefit many types of tendonitis, both acute and chronic. Treatment to the muscle, the tendon, and the surrounding tissues may increase micro-circulation and therefore relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and enhance healing time. In Acupuncture Sports Medicine, we often add needles to treat the belly of the muscle, thus helping to elongate the muscle-tendon unit, and reduce pathology at the tendinous attachment. Any strain to the tendon is treatable with acupuncture, as well as the current "catch-all" terms tendonitis, tendonosis, and tendonopathy.

Commonly treated tendons include:
  • The Achilles tendon
  • "Tennis elbow” and inflammation of the extensor tendon of the forearm
  • "Climber's elbow" with its inflammation of the forearm flexor tendons
  • Shin splints – tendinous inflammation to either the anterior or the medial compartment muscles of the leg

Arthritis often responds well to acupuncture, although treatment may take a bit longer. The knee and the hip are two common sites of osteoarthritis. Both are well-treated by the techniques used in Acupuncture Sports Medicine. However, the smaller joints also may respond well to acupuncture. By treating the surrounding tissues, increasing micro-circulation at or near the joint, and addressing other metabolic and structural issues, patients with arthritis usually experience relief. And patients in our clinic usually have confidence in the overall programs we use to maintain their joint function.

The following joints may respond well to our sports acupuncture techniques:
  • Arthritis of the hip
  • Osteoarthritis of the 1st metatarsal-phalanges joint (the “big toe”)
  • AC joint arthritis and shoulder bursitis
  • Knee osteoarthritis (anterior, medial, or lateral compartments)
  • Arthritis of the smaller joints of the wrist, hand, and foot.

Both the neck and low back are common patient complaints. Injuries include sprain, strain, bulging or herniated discs, and soft tissue injury. The writings of traditional Chinese medicine describe back and neck treatments in detail. However, these protocols often seem inadequate with many clinic patients in the current era. Prolonged sitting and hours of work on computer keyboards creates unfavorable postural and bio-mechanical factors. Degenerative disc disease and disc herniation that results from chronic loading of the back and neck have created syndromes not seen by the Chinese masters 500 years ago. Thus, with low back and neck pain more than any other condition, treatment must use an integrated approach, and combined with complimentary modalities like physical therapy, massage, and therapeutic exercises. These treatments were poorly described in the traditional Chinese texts, but are essential for today's clinic patient.

If you are training for a specific athletic event, Whitfield has developed protocols that might be beneficial to you during both training and competition. We do not yet have studies that definitively prove acupunctures role in benefitting performance. Those are designed and will be completed in the near future. However, it is an interesting application of traditional Chinese techniques, and some athletes find treatment to offer “significant” support to their performance. We assist athletes with athletic performance, but we must have an initial office visit with a good medical history and perform the required exams for diagnosis and assessment. This is an essential basis in prescribing of acupuncture and herbal medicine for the enhancement of athletic performance. And, with all Whitfield's years of experience with Olympians, every procedure and medicine is USOC "legal", which is an obvious concern in this era of performance enhancing drugs.