Seeking to relieve pain and soreness that result from their battles on the gridiron, NFL players seek out massage therapists and chiropractors, practice yoga, receive electronic stimulation and nap in hyperbaric chambers—to name just a few modalities. According to a recent article in the New York Times, another therapy, one that seems to be growing in popularity, is acupuncture, the procedure of inserting and tweaking small needles in various points on the body.
New York Jets fullback Tony Richardson and cornerback Darrelle Revis, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Farrior and Miami Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington all receive regular treatments from NFL acupuncturist Lisa Ripi. Richardson swears his soreness vanishes after being treated by Ripi.
Just as each position in football requires different training techniques, Ripi's methods (and the number of needles she uses) vary depending on the location of the pain—such as the shoulder for a quarterback or the hamstrings for a running back. Ripi describes her therapy as closer to Japanese style than traditional Chinese—focusing less on established pressure points and more on sore areas.
The idea behind acupuncture is to increase blood flow and relax clenched-up muscles. Ripi does use trigger points to release "stuck blood." When Revis suffered an injury to his hamstring, she stuck one needle in the top of his head—tapping a nerve that shoots feeling from a lower extremity to the brain. Some studies suggest acupuncture can even alter the brain's perception and processing of pain.
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