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The Acute Effect of Acupuncture on 20-km Cycling Performance

Dhillon, Satpal MScPT

Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine: January 2008 - Volume 18 - Issue 1 - p 76-80
doi: 10.1097/JSM.0b013e31815ed6a9
Original Research

Objective: To examine acupuncture's effect on cycling performance.

Design: This was a prospective, single-blind, patient as own control (repeated measures), crossover design. Subjects underwent 3 tests a week, riding a stationary bike for 20-km as fast as able. Before each test, they received acupuncture (test A), "sham" acupuncture (test B), and no intervention (control, test C) once each in a random order.

Setting: University of Alberta, Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine.

Participants: 20 male cyclists (age, 18 to 30 years) were recruited via convenience sampling of students and general public. Athletic ability was assessed through a questionnaire and modified Par-Q.

Interventions: Acupuncture, sham acupuncture, and no intervention in random order with each subject before each test. Acupuncture points were chosen on the basis of Traditional Chinese Medicine and administered immediately before cycling. Sham was shallow needling of known acupoints.

Main Outcome Measurements: The outcome measures of each of the tests were time to completion, VAS for lower extremity/exercise-induced pain, Borg rating of perceived exertion (RPE), and blood lactate concentrations, recorded immediately following each test.

Results: Mean times to Test A, B, and C completion were 36.19 ± 5.23, 37.03 ± 5.66, and 37.48 ± 6.00 minutes, respectively, P = 0.76. Mean RPE scores after tests A, B, and C were 17.65 ± 0.67, 16.95 ± 0.99, and 16.85 ± 0.88, respectively, P = 0.0088. Mean VAS scores after tests A, B, and C were 7.72 ± 0.86, 7.94 ± 0.78, and 8.08 ± 0.69, respectively, P = 0.76.

Conclusions: The only statistically significant finding was that acupuncture gave higher RPE scores compared to the other tests. The clinical significance was that the higher RPE scores gave lower time and VAS scores.

From the Department of Physical Therapy, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada.

Submitted for publication September 5, 2006; accepted October 12, 2007.

The author states that they have no financial interest in the products mentioned within this article.

Reprints: Satpal Dhillon, BScPT, MScPT, 2-50 Corbett Hall, Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2G4 (e-mail:

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.