What comes to mind when you think of acupuncture?
Wellness, self-care, re-balancing are just some of the benefits this ancient Chinese therapy has been synonymous with for centuries.
To be literal, however, acupuncture essentially includes fine needle insertion into the skin, meaning there are after-care steps to follow to avoid possible infections or result diminishing.
One of the emerging questions is whether exercise is allowed after acupuncture and how long you should wait before you get back to your workouts.
Exercise after acupuncture – What’s the big deal?
Alternative Chinese medicine explains acupuncture as a means of balancing the life energy flow (also called chi or qi) that has, due to a certain illness or impairment, been interrupted.
Needles are used to re-balance the energy stream by inserting them along specific points on the body, through the energy pathways called meridians.
Although acupuncture is pretty painless and relaxing, any kind of needle application to the skin opens a potential for irritation or infection, especially on the face. To achieve stimulation, your practitioner may even gently twirl the needles, apply heat or mild electrical pulses to them.
Even though they are very small, these skin punctures are susceptible to infection right after the treatment, which is why excessive sweating, boosted circulation or exposure to bacteria-infested places may cause discomfort, irritation, redness, and even serious conditions like Pneumothorax.
This is why acupuncture practitioners advise a low-key after-treatment period that includes resting and avoiding things like vigorous exercise.
Will working out after acupuncture cancel the effects?
It all depends on your personal experience.
Some people feel tranquil and breezy, while others get energized and pumped for action after the session.
If you were looking to diminish anxiety, stress, chronic pain and conditions like migraines with acupuncture, then engaging in stress-inducing activities such as exercise can somewhat compromise the results of therapy. Working out promotes dopamine production, it increases blood pressure, speeds up your heart rate, induces sweating and boosts adrenaline, all counterproductive to a calming and relaxing therapy.
Most importantly, exercise is a form of energy streaming, which can tamper with the acupuncture needlework and possibly redirect the therapeutic stimulation previously done.
That said, physical activity per se has not proven to have any negative effects on acupuncture results, so it all boils down to your personal preference, goals, and the type of exercise you choose to do.
Can you lift weights after acupuncture?
While weight-lifting is a form of stress relief for some avid sportspeople, it still is considered as high-intensity interval training, heart-pounding pace activity that mostly falls under the category of vigorous exercise.
If we put aside the energizing, stress-inducing effect of it, weight lifting can also mess with acupuncture by putting the sensitive skin and open punctures at risk of infection and irritation. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) means more strain and pressure during shorter periods, basically turning your body into a heater and a sweating machine. When your body is warm, the pores expand (as well as the needle punctures), allowing bacteria and sweat to enter more easily.
While there are no specific instructions for avoiding weight lifting, based on these facts as well as the practice experience, it is best to avoid it at least until you feel the needle holes have diminished.
Can I do yoga after acupuncture?
Yoga aligns with acupuncture in the sense that it can prolong the effect of the meditative, relaxed state of the chi. It doesn’t overwhelm the system by channelling away the flow, in fact, it can be beneficial for staying calm and balanced.
However, yoga is a form of exercise and it can easily be as strenuous to the body as running or training. Therefore, make sure to know your limits and engage in moderate yoga sessions right after acupuncture, with light and easy poses that won’t make you sweat profusely.
Is stretching a good idea after acupuncture?
There’s no better way to kick the energy flow and start your day like a good thorough stretch. Well-guided and safe stretching opens up the meridians, balances breathing, elongates the limbs, spine, relaxes the muscles and reduces tension and swelling in the stressed tissue. If done properly, stretching can be a beneficial addition to an acupuncture treatment.
That said, it’s essential not to overdo it, as head-spinning, complicated stretching positions and manoeuvres could reverse the effects and promote the unnecessary blood rush to the face and head.
Keep in mind that minimal and light movement should be your pace after acupuncture.
In conclusion – How long after acupuncture can you exercise?
Experience has shown that exercise after acupuncture can as easily be your friend as it can become the enemy.
The optimal time for recovery should be at least the day after the therapy session to stay on the safe side.
If you’re a gym enthusiast that just can’t go without your daily training, what makes a ‘vigorous’ workout will depend on your fitness and stamina. With that in mind, adapt your workouts to stay moderately physically disrupted if you want to maintain the healing effect of your acupuncture therapy.
Finally, the best idea would be to consult your acu-therapist and come to an optimal after-care routine that suits your needs and preferences best, while fully enjoying the magic of acupuncture bliss.