Two sisters improve performance and reduce pain thanks to sports acupuncture

Two things the Mendez family have in common are their love of sports and appreciation for Henry Ford Health. Patrick Mendez, a father of four, had successful hip surgery at Henry Ford after taking an active role in his children’s lives including being part of their athletic endeavors and serving as a traveling softball coach. His wife Stacey was diagnosed with breast cancer and was successfully treated at Henry Ford Health in 2022. With several other family members having positive experiences at Henry Ford, Patrick researched options for two of their athlete daughters Emily and Eva, who were experiencing joint pain. He decided to give acupuncture a try at Henry Ford’s Center for Integrative Medicine with Dr. Tom Betts, doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and certified sports acupuncturist at Henry Ford Health.

Emily’s treatment success with acupuncture

Emily started playing T-ball at age four. She proceeded to play recreation fastpitch, pitching and paying shortstop for a travel softball team managed by her dad and competing in the World Series in Indiana. During her second year on her high school softball team at Edsel Ford, she started to experience pain in her throwing arm.

Multiple exercises and online and physical therapy did not ease her pain. “I had been wearing an arm-sleeve before high school when the pain wasn't as bad, but it affected my pitching and throwing. I did not throw as hard or accurately,” Emily said. “We decided to try acupuncture with Dr. Betts and in my first appointment he completely fixed my posture, which I didn't even notice was that bad.”

Emily says after the recommended acupuncture treatment her symptoms improved tremendously to the point where she did not experience arm pain.

Her father Patrick was also very impressed. “After just one treatment with Dr. Betts, not only did it ease her pain, I saw Emily make throws like she never made in her life.”

Dr. Betts explains he takes a holistic approach when treating each patient, looking at not only the area of main complaint, but also the surrounding muscles and joints.

“When Emily accompanied by her father/coach, came in for relief of arm pain, sport/orthopedic acupuncture was done to rebalance tight/overactive muscles, inhibited/underactive muscles, and compensating muscles of the arm, shoulder, and upper back,” Dr. Betts says.

This tune-up treatment consisting of electrical stimulation Motor Points addresses common postural issues which affects many young student athletes.

“Many pain issues are the result of these muscular imbalances. Tight muscles, causing inhibition of opposing muscles, essentially prevents them from working properly and doing their job,” Dr. Betts added. “This tightness and inhibition can lead to compensation elsewhere.”

Eva’s acupuncture story

Like Emily, Eva was very active in a variety of sports including softball, dance, gymnastics, basketball and track. In 6th grade, she found her love of volleyball and continued to play in high school. She never experienced joint issues until October 2022, when her right knee gave out during a game, and she started to experience shoulder and hip discomfort.

After Emily’s success with acupuncture treatment, Eva decided to see Dr. Betts. “He treated my shoulder and knees during my first appointment, and I have not experienced any shoulder discomfort since that first appointment.”

Eva is undergoing foam rolling for her knee and hip discomfort and she is hopeful it will ease her pain.

“I’m thankful to Dr. Betts for being able to help treat me so I can continue to play the sport I have the most passion for,” adds Eva.

Dr. Betts says he often recommends self-care in the form of self-myofascial work (self-massage with a ball, foam roller, massage gun and/or fingers), stretching, and strengthening between acupuncture treatments to further improve outcomes, reduce recurrence of the injury, and even to reduce dependence on his treatments.

“In Eva’s case, self-massage and stretching of tight hip flexors and leg muscles along with strengthening of gluteal muscles were done,” said Dr. Betts. He explains foam rolling helps untie the knots in muscles allowing for better stretching and range of motion.

T. Sean Lynch, M.D., Henry Ford Health sports medicine specialist and orthopedic surgeon, says sports acupuncture is an important part of the comprehensive treatment options offered through the Henry Ford Sports Medicine program.

“Whether it’s injury treatment, surgical care, sports therapy or integrative medicine services, we are proud to offer an array of prevention and treatment options that can improve sports performance and reduce pain.

Learn more about sports acupuncture treatment at Henry Ford Health Center for Integrative Medicine. Find a sports medicine specialist and learn more about all of our sports medicine treatment options.

Have an injury?

Appointments within 24 business hours. Virtual visits available. Call (313) 651-1969.


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