The Feasibility and Effects of Acupuncture in an Adolescent Nordic Ski Population

Kristin L. Garlanger, William H. Fredericks, Alexander Do, Brent A. Bauer, Edward R. Laskowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background Studies investigating the use and effectiveness of acupuncture in adults after exercise have been well documented. Fewer studies involving acupuncture have been completed in the adolescent athlete population. To our knowledge, there are no published studies that investigate the use of acupuncture in adolescent athletes within their field of play. Objective To primarily assess the feasibility of performing acupuncture in adolescent Nordic skiers within their athletic environment, and secondarily to measure the effect of acupuncture on muscle soreness and sense of well-being. Design Prospective feasibility study. Setting Local outdoor cross country ski trails and indoor lodge. Participants Fifteen healthy participants (80% female, 20% male; age 14-17 years) were involved on at least 1 of 5 treatment days. Intervention Fifteen-minute treatments were administered using traditional needle acupuncture following the first 5 consecutive Nordic Ski Team practices of the season in an attempt to capture the effect of acupuncture on delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Acupuncture points specific to muscle groups in the lower limbs that are commonly reported as painful during Nordic skiing were chosen. Pre- and posttreatment surveys included visual analogue scales (VAS) to track participant responses. Outcome Measures Time, cost, side effects, and participant to provider ratio was observed to determine feasibility. Effect on muscle soreness and sense of well-being was measured via pre- and posttreatment VAS (0-10) rating analyses. Results Total time required by research staff on treatment days was 90 minutes; total cost, $1500; temperature range, −13.9°C to −2.8°C, and largest participant to acupuncturist ratio, 7:1. No major side effects occurred. The majority (73%) of participants reported minimal side effects; most common was treatment site pain. The overall pre- to posttreatment effect on muscle soreness (average over 5 days) demonstrated significantly improved posttreatment scores (P =.04). The effect of the day (average over pre- and posttreatment values) demonstrated significantly higher muscle soreness scores on day 3 versus day 1 (P =.03). At study completion, all participants indicated that they would consider acupuncture in the future and would recommend treatments to friends or teammates. Conclusion Providing acupuncture to adolescent Nordic ski athletes in the practice field under extreme temperatures is feasible with the appropriate resources. Despite mild side effects, acupuncture was well received by the athletes. Lessons learned from this trial can provide a framework for delivering acupuncture to other athletes in their training environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)795-803
Number of pages9
JournalPM and R
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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