Austin Sports Medicine: An Acupuncture Visit

It’s time for another Austin Sports Medicine 101 class! Today we’re talking about acupuncture. Its health and wellness benefits are often extraordinary, so we wanted to walk you through what a typical acupuncture visit might consist of.  One of the most common health concerns successfully addressed with acupuncture treatment is lower back pain, so we’ll be using that as the blueprint for our guide.

After a complete orthopedic assessment and medical history, each treatment is initiated by taking time to assist you in relaxing and being comfortable on the treatment table.  This may include some gentle, passive stretching, joint mobilization, or manual traction techniques as well as TuiNa (traditional Chinese-style sport massage).  After palpation to find local trigger points and other anatomical landmarks, the area to be needled is cleaned with cotton alcohol swabs.  Needles are inserted quickly and gently into points selected using a combination of Traditional Chinese and Japanese acupuncture point and meridian theory, and locations of trigger points and muscle motor points as defined by modern western medicine. While the patient typically does feel the needle insertion and manipulation, it is not a painful experience. Most patients report a sensation of pressure, warmth, or even some tingling. When treating muscle motor points, it is in fact desirable to illicit a motor response from the muscle in the form of a brief fasciculation, or twitch. After acupuncture needles are placed, an infrared heat lamp is often used to provide therapeutic heat to the painful area. The needles may then also act as conductors, helping the heat penetrate more deeply into the musculature and aid in reducing tension and pain. Depending on the patient and the condition being treated, needles may be retained from 15 to 45 minutes, with an average time of about 25 minutes to allow time for additional modalities and consultation.

Cupping is another frequently applied modality in our acupuncture treatment. This is the use of heavy glass suction cups to reduce muscle tension pain and spasm. The suction created helps promote circulation and reduce painful myofascial adhesion, encouraging the healing process. While this can be a more intense experience, most patients end up enjoying and appreciating the results. Cups can be placed and left on particular spots, or may be slid across the surface of the skin to treat a broader area. Additional TuiNa bodywork therapy, passive, and dynamic stretching techniques are often applied as well.

Please be mindful, this “tour” has been a broad overview of typical applications used in acupuncture treatment at the Medicine In Motion clinic.  Each patient is evaluated individually and treated accordingly. Just like people, no two treatments are the same.

If you have questions or have needs regarding sports medicine in Austin or the surrounding areas, visit us at, call or send us an email!