Apr 9, 2018
East Meets West

Many athletic trainers have dual credentials, and some have more than two. But Jody Murray, LAc, ATC, LAT, is one of a select few who have licenses in both athletic training and acupuncture.

“I have heard there are a couple of other people who are both,” says Murray, who works at Arizona Spine Disc & Sport (AZSDS) in Phoenix. “I have yet to meet or speak with any of them.”

Murray has been combining the two practices for more than 20 years. With an undergraduate degree from Springfield College, she began her career as a clinic athletic trainer in her native Connecticut. After 10 years, she felt an itch to diversify what she could offer patients, in part because of restrictions on athletic trainers due to Connecticut’s then-upcoming licensure act.

She had been introduced to acupuncture during college, thanks to a demonstration given by an acupuncturist from China who was taking some classes at Springfield, and it had intrigued her. After looking into the discipline further, she went to acupuncture school and received her license to practice.

Murray then spent about 20 years operating her own private athletic training/acupuncture practice in Connecticut. She treated patients in her clinic and supplied per-diem athletic training coverage for local high schools and colleges. She also worked as a volunteer at a U.S. Olympic training site in Chula Vista, Calif., and traveled with the U.S. Archery Team to events in Mexico and China.

In 2015, she moved to Arizona and secured her current position at AZSDS, which allows her to continue to use both her skill sets. “I evaluate a new patient as an athletic trainer first and look at all of the orthopedic stuff,” Murray says. “Then as an acupuncturist, I delve into a lot of other things, like psycho-social factors, diet, and exercise.

“After those evaluations, I decide on the appropriate acupuncture treatment, which addresses both the root cause and the complaint that brought them to see me,” she continues. “Depending on the case, I typically do some myofascial manual therapy after the needles come out, such as cupping, instrument assisted techniques, prescriptive stretching, or therapeutic exercise.”

Most of the patients who come to Murray at AZSDS are recreational athletes experiencing pain for one reason or another, although she does treat some high school and college athletes. “We have a big triathlon community in our area, and I work with a lot of triathletes,” she says. “I also see a lot of people with spine injures. But other things that respond well to acupuncture are headaches of all sorts, shoulder and elbow injuries, and tendinopathies.”

Murray’s clients include referrals from area physicians, as well as those who seek her out based on word of mouth. “If you treat someone and ease their pain, they usually tell their friends,” she says.

She believes other athletic trainers could benefit from knowing more about acupuncture. “You might want to consider acupuncture when an athlete isn’t responding to treatments as expected,” Murray says. “It can be especially useful if you have someone who has plateaued or wants to get a jump on post-surgical pain.

“But make sure the acupuncturist is licensed and ask what kinds of acupuncture they practice,” she continues. “I think it’s important that acupuncturists working with athletes understand motor point, trigger point, and dry needling in addition to basic acupuncture. I’d also suggest finding one who has some background or training in orthopedics. When you graduate from acupuncture school, you’re kind of like a general practitioner. Athletic trainers should seek out an acupuncturist who is familiar with sports medicine.”

Murray adds that acupuncture, and many other areas of Eastern medicine, have a long history of success. “A lot of treatments that seem to be new are things I’ve been doing for 20 years,” she says. “Eastern medicine has been practicing cupping, which is now all the rage, for thousands of years. Instrument assisted therapies are very close to Gua Sha, which has been done for thousand of years. So there is definite value in the knowledge of an acupuncturist, and I think athletic trainers could gain a lot from seeing what they can do.”

This article appeared in the April 2018 issue of Training & Conditioning.

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