How Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Can Help Treat Sports Hernia

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Traditional Chinese Medicine has long been a healing practice for people in the orient for many centuries now. Their main source of medicinal products solely depends on nature particularly the flora and fauna.

Although such method elicits skepticism in the minds of many, there is the element of curiosity that pushes us to know how TCM works in the line of wellness. What then can TCM do in the field of sports injuries like hernia? Let’s find out.  

Sports Hernia and What Causes It

Sports hernia is a core muscle injury that affects the lower abdomen and the groin. Professional athletes who engage in high-intensity sports are particularly vulnerable to this type of injury.

It is also common among recreational athletes, as well as those who engage in high school or college sports. Male athletes are more vulnerable to this type of injury more than female athletes.

This injury is caused by making sudden and repetitive pelvic and hip movements, such as kicking, pivoting, or twisting. Sports hernia is common among people who play football, American football, rugby, and hockey. Sprinters, skiers, skaters, and tennis players are also vulnerable to this type of injury.

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Other Terms for Sports Hernia

Sports hernia is known as athletic pubalgia in the medical world. It is also known by a host of other names, such as Gilmore’s groin, hockey groin, and hockey hernia.

What are the Symptoms of Sport Hernia?

1. The presence of an intense stabbing pain in the lower abdomen or groin when the athlete performs movements, such as cutting, twisting, kicking, running, etc.

2. A pain that is present in one side of the groin only.

3. The presence of a sharp pain when the athlete is performing standard or oblique sit-ups.

4. A pain that can extend to the upper thighs.

5.  A pain that disappears when an athlete takes a break from high-intensity sports or any other strenuous activities.

6. A pain that can be felt or intensifies when the patient is sneezing or coughing.

7.  Tenderness that is felt when pressure is applied to the affected area.


Diagnosing Sports Hernia

Diagnosing sports hernia present a unique challenge to doctors as its symptoms are often similar to other pelvic or hip injuries. To determine if the patient has sports hernia, the physician or therapist will conduct a series of evaluations.

The evaluation will begin by delving into the patient’s sports activities and health history. The doctor or therapist will ask whether the patient is experiencing groin or lower abdominal pain when performing movements such as kicking, pivoting, twisting, or sprinting.

They might also ask whether the patient had pelvic or hip injuries lately, as well as if they performed intense core strengthening exercises.

After the initial evaluation, the doctor will palpate the lower abdominal area to check for tenderness. They will also check if there’s a bulge or protrusion in the affected area which can be a sign of an inguinal hernia.

The patient will also be asked to do some exercises involving the hips and the pelvis. To rule out other injuries or conditions, the physician or therapist will ask the patient to undergo CT scan, MRI scan, ultrasound or X-ray.


Conventional treatment of sports hernia includes rest coupled with anti-inflammatory medication and physical therapy. Those who have severe and chronic sports hernia will need to undergo surgery.

Complementing the Treatment with Traditional Chinese Medicine

Apart from taking anti-inflammatory medication and taking a break from sports activities, patients who suffer from sports hernia may also complement the treatment with traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Treatment includes acupuncture and cupping therapy.

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Acupuncture to Help Relieve the Pain of Sports Hernia

Acupuncture is an ancient treatment that involves the insertion of sterile and very fine needles to stimulate specific points (acupoints) of the body.

This treatment has been proven effective in alleviating muscle pain, nerve pain, menstrual cramps, and low back pain. Acupuncture relieves pain by facilitating the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers.

During the treatment, an acupuncturist will insert anywhere between four to ten very fine needles in the affected area. These needles will be left in place for ten to thirty minutes.

Depending on the severity of the injury, the patient may need to come back to an acupuncturist for additional sessions in the following months.

Cupping Therapy For Pain Relief

Cupping therapy is another element of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) that is effective in alleviating pain caused by sports hernia.

This therapy is widely practiced in China and elsewhere in East Asia, but today, it has become popular even among Western athletes and celebrities.

Cupping therapy is performed using small cups that are attached to the skin by creating suction with the help of a pump. The suction helps relax the muscles and provide relief from pain by improving blood circulation in the affected area. The effect of cupping is similar to that of a deep massage.


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