Authors: Paola Urroz, BApplSci, Ben Colagiuri, PhD, Caroline A. Smith, PhD, and Birinder Singh Cheema, PhD
Background: Preliminary evidence suggests that acupuncture applied proximally during a single bout of exercise can enhance exercise performance and/or expedite postexercise recovery. The purpose of this investigation was to review trials, systematically and critically, that have investigated such hypotheses and delineate areas for future research.
Method: A systematic review using computerized databases was performed.
Results: Four trials were found: Three involved within-subjects designs and one used a parallel group design. Few participants were enrolled (n = 10–20). Fourteen acupuncture sites were used across the four trials: DU 20, LI 15, LI 13, PC 6, ST 36, SP 6, PC 5, LU 7, LI 4, GB 37, GB 39, GB 34, and LI 11, and LR 3. PC 6, and ST 36 were the most commonly used sites. Three trials evaluated the effect of acupuncture on exercise performance. One of these trials noted that electroacupuncture stimulation of either PC 5 and PC 6 or LU 7 and LI4 significantly increased peak power output, blood pressure, and rate pressure product (RPP) versus control. However, two trials documented no effect of acupuncture on exercise performance using point combinations of either DU 20, LI 15, LI 13, PC 6, ST 36, and SP 6 or DU 20, ST 36, GB 34, LI 11, LR 3. One trial evaluated the effect of acupuncture on postexercise recovery and found that heart rate, oxygen consumption, and blood lactate were significantly reduced secondary to acupuncturing of PC 6 and ST 36 versus control and placebo conditions at 30 or 60 minutes postexercise.
Conclusions: There is preliminary support for the use of acupuncture as a means to enhance exercise perfor- mance and postexercise recovery, but many limitations exist within this body of literature. Adequately powered, RCTs with thorough and standardized reporting of research methods (e.g., acupuncture and exercise interventions) and results are required to determine more adequately the effect of acupuncture methods on exercise performance and postexercise recovery. Future investigations should involve appropriate placebo methods and blinding of both participants and investigators.