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Exercise Therapy and Rehabilitation: Balancing Movement and Healing

In the UK, where sports are highly revered, sports injuries are common and often treated with acupuncture. Acupuncture practitioners frequently encounter patients inquiring about the possibility of continuing exercise or the type of exercises they should engage in. Thus, an experienced acupuncturist is familiar with various exercise therapies and their relationship with acupuncture to enhance treatment efficacy and promote rehabilitation.

Generally, in acupuncture treatment of peripheral body diseases, moderate activity of the affected part is necessary, except during severe acute injuries where immobilization and complete rest are required. Moderate muscle activity improves local blood circulation and stimulates the production of endogenous pain-relieving substances like endorphins, which are beneficial for alleviating pain and eliminating stiffness. Many patients with chronic joint diseases or muscle strains experience intensified pain and stiffness in the morning due to lack of movement overnight. Such patients are ideal candidates for exercise therapy. For example, patients with "frozen shoulder" experiencing upper arm mobility issues benefit significantly from daily intensive limb exercise in conjunction with acupuncture for quicker results.

In rehabilitation of movement paralysis, such as peripheral nerve damage-induced local paralysis or limb paralysis caused by stroke, conscious enhancement of autonomous activity or load exercise of the affected part is crucial. Contemporary rehabilitation doctors and physical therapists have accumulated extensive experience in various exercise therapies, developing a comprehensive set of theories and treatment measures. Personal trainers, specializing in exercise training, offer individualized guidance based on each person's unique condition.

Exercise therapy is also suitable for patients with visceral diseases. A typical case is coronary heart disease patients. Whether dominated by myocardial ischemia or arrhythmias, they need strengthening exercises in the post-acute phase. Practices like "Cloud Hands" in Tai Chi, which significantly stimulate the heart reflex zones or meridians (including the heart and pericardium meridians), are particularly beneficial. These exercises, combined with acupuncture, can enhance the therapeutic effect. Moreover, local muscle exercises before acupuncture can increase sensitivity to acupuncture stimulation, promoting the transmission of acupuncture sensation and improving treatment efficacy. This is especially helpful for patients with low sensitivity to acupuncture, advocating for "exercise before acupuncture."

On the other hand, when patients are unable to engage in exercise therapy due to severe pain, acupuncture can first be used to alleviate the pain, followed by immediate exercise, i.e., "acupuncture before exercise." Some patients undergoing distant acupuncture, including contralateral or ipsilateral corresponding points, can simultaneously move the affected part to accelerate therapeutic effects, similar to "acupuncture anesthesia," or "acupuncture and movement simultaneously."

In summary, appropriate exercise combined with acupuncture usually synergizes in treating peripheral painful diseases. For visceral or neuropsychiatric diseases, except for absolute bed rest during the acute phase, the maxim "life is in movement" is almost always correct. Remember the keyword "moderation." It's crucial to balance sufficient stimulus intensity with prevention of overexertion. Generally, using heart rate during and after exercise to estimate the intensity (aerobic or anaerobic) and personal tolerance is reliable. For middle-aged and elderly people, a simple indicator is to exercise until "slightly sweaty," which is easy to gauge.



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