Portland Bicyclists + Acupuncture = Love

I live in Portland, and I have to admit it. I have a passion for biking.

Fun Reflector HeartCog

When I moved here to attend Reed College in 2000, little did I know that my bicycle would be my only form of transportation (besides walking and bussing) for a healthy seven years. Three bikes and many happy bike-adventures later, I still have an abiding love for this form of transportation, sporting, and pleasure. Recently I joined women’s biking and business group Portland Society, which keeps me up to date on the latest developments in Portland’s renowned bicyclist scene. Through them I had the opportunity to guest blog at Bicycling Hub, a local bike-gear business and hub for bike events/advice/stories. I shared my article on self-care for winter bikers here. But wait, there’s more!

Image credit Christine Sterne on Flickr; original image by Fritz Kahn- National Library of Medicine

I have been thinking about my experience as a biker ten years ago, before my adventure with Chinese Medicine began… I remember all those times that my low back hurt, my shoulders felt permanently hunched, and my calves knotted up for hours… I didn’t know about acupuncture or herbal therapy, and much less did I care about attending to my body when I had important papers to write, books to read, people to talk with. I even had an accident one rainy night- I flipped over the hood of a car which had barreled through an intersection, landed on my messenger bag full of books which cushioned my fall (no major injuries), and was so rattled that I just straightened out my bike tire and wobbily rode home, in shock. I never considered getting therapy, being a poor college student with no major ill-effects other than nagging neck and back pain which I could ignore. Throughout my undergrad experience I was living totally in my head, and although my body received plenty of exercise, it wasn’t exactly a happy and pain-free body.

Ten years later, I fully realize the value of preventing chronic pain or tension from developing, but I also recognize the fact that preventive care is not on everyone’s radar. I wrote the self-care for bicyclists article for all the hard-working commuters and racers who may assume that the state of the physical body will remain constant until it experiences a major problem, or else may recognize the value of preventive care but not act on it. We often don’t realize this neglect until we take a look at whether preventive care is a part of each exercise routine or a daily routine.

Every ride (and workout) both builds up and breaks down muscle tissue and joint tissue, altering the morphology of the body. In order to take advantage of the workout while minimizing the pain and inflammation, we can do simple self-care techniques beyond stretching, such as drinking ginger tea and doing self-massage or moxa. A few self-care habits can make a huge difference. And when self-care doesn’t reach these repetitive motion aches and pains, it is definitely time to get acupuncture! This short article from Life and Fitness Magazine Ireland recognizes the increasing popularity and recognition of acupuncture as a go-to therapy for cyclists and athletes. This article also touches on several studies that found acupuncture to benefit athletes and cyclist-athletes.

Old-time Sheep-Shearer with 3 days provisions; from the State Library of Queensland, Australia. Looks like he could use some acupuncture and a relaxing foot bath!

Cycling creates strain throughout the body, but it often brings more extreme pain to the low back, hips and knees. The IT band has become notorious for its susceptibility to tightness; tight inner thigh ligaments pose problems as well. Luckily, acupuncture has great success with loosening muscles and ligaments that may seem impossible to stretch or relax. We utilize many therapies to treat the specific area of tightness and pain, such as moxibustion, cupping, gua sha, and electro-acupuncture. However, simplicity is also a basic tenet of acupuncture, which we can follow by treating two meridians that complement each other in their actions of regulating inner and outer muscles and ligaments of the leg as well as regulating the flow of energy between upper and lower body to bring motive power to the legs. These two meridians are the Yin and Yang Qiao Mai, or the Yin and Yang Motility Vessels.

Yin Motility Vessel (Chest, Abdomen, Inner Leg)

The point KD6 is the Master Point of the Yin Motility Vessel, and the point UB62 is the Master Point of the Yang Motility Vessel. The former is located on the inner ankle, and the latter is located on the outer ankle. Used together, they can significantly reduce tension and pain of the legs, hips, and low back. When combined with Motility Vessel intersection points like UB1 and GB20 on the head, SI10 behind the shoulder, GB29 at the hip, and KD8 and UB59 on the lower leg, we can multiply the effect of the two points to also strengthen and regulate the muscular function of the legs, low back, and abdomen.

Yang Motility Vessel (Lateral Neck and Ribcage, Low Back, Hips, Outer Leg)

The name of KD6 is “Shining Sea,” “Luminous Sea,” or “Reflective Ocean,” which indicates that the point accesses vast amounts of energy in a way that brings clarity and illumination to the patient. This point treats nervous exhaustion, chronic stress, and adrenal fatigue, while helping to balance hormonal expression in the body, in addition to its fantastic musculoskeletal effect. This is a great example of how acupuncture can treat a very specific musculoskeletal complaint while simultaneously helping to balance and nourish the entire body, mind and spirit.

Luminous Sea (credit: Francois Roche on Flickr)

Reflecting Ocean (credit: tanakawho on Flickr)

If only I had known that during my time at Reed College, when I refused care for a bike accident and simultaneously blew out my adrenal glands from studying… 🙂 Now that I have been receiving regular acupuncture and herbal medicine treatments at the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine, I am a much happier biker; I feel super strong and can easily weather the freezing and rainy Portland winter!


Pirog, John. 1996. The Practical Application of Meridian Style Acupuncture. Berkeley, CA: Pacific View Press.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s