In no other time in history has remote connection been such a vital part of every aspect of our lives. Work, school, and even our social interactions with loved ones are dependent on accessing our world with heads down for extended periods of time to connect with each other through technology. It is no surprise, then, that we have been seeing an increase of patients at Watershed Wellness seeking relief from neck pain. We're also seeing all the symptoms often accompanying neck pain such as headaches, tingling, numbness, and the referral of these symptoms down the arm and upper back.
Fortunately, biomedical research is begining to demonstrate the effectiveness of acupuncture treatment for neck pain. In one of the largest studies to date, an analysis of 29 studies involving close to 18,000 participants showed that acupuncture relieved pain by about 50%. The research, published in 2018 in The Arizona Pain And Addiction Curriculum Faculty Guide, conclusively demonstrates that acupuncture treatment of neck pain is an effective, non-invasive and affordable approach to reducing neck pain without the use of opioids, especially over the long-term (1).
Acupuncture treatment for neck pain will vary for each individual, because the differential diagnosis of patterns of imbalance based on Chinese Medicine theory varies for each person.
For example, Cervical Spondylosis is a type of degenerative disease wherein the cartilage lining the vertebrae on each side of the disk wears away over time, resulting in less room for the nerves attached to the spinal cord to pass between the vertebrae. The acupuncture treatment of chronic neck pain for this type of condition would be to tonify deficiencies in the body to support the body in restoring strength in bones and tissues in addition to moving qi and blood to relieve pain. There are many such chronic conditions that cause neck pain that can be effectively treated with acupuncture. However, some people are surprised to learn that acupuncture is also an excellent choice for acute causes of neck pain.
Acute causes of neck pain include car accident, sports injury, neck sprain from a poor sleeping position, or any number of traumas. All of these can cause sudden and debilitating pain in the neck that can be aided by acupuncture treatment. Acupuncture theory focuses on the creation of qi and blood stagnation in channels and tissues after these acute events. Needles are used, often employing special techniques, to reestablish the normal flow of circulation, thus allowing the body to resolve the blockage fairly quickly – alleviating the pain. The duration and frequency of treatments varies based on the condition and the healing ability of the individual. While acute cases of muscle strain may resolve in a few sessions with frequent visits, chronic conditions may take longer as resolution of the underlying deficiencies will be necessary for continued relief.
Research continues to examine the benefits of non-invasive procedures for managing acute and chronic pain conditions, including the acupuncture treatment of neck pain.
As explained in the Harvard Women’s Health Watch, “researchers determined that up to twelve 50-minute acupuncture treatments over several months were more effective for relieving chronic neck pain than customary treatment with pain relievers and physical therapy” (2). Depending on the chronic or acute cause of the neck pain in addition to the precise location of pain, the acupuncture treatment itself will be unique to each person. In the acupuncture treatment of neck pain, needles might be gently inserted directly into the neck, shoulders, and upper back, but do not be surprised if points on the hands and ankles are used.
These are often referred to as “distal points.” Acupuncturists view the body as having a “highway” system in which 12 meridian channels can be accessed from specific points along the channel to elicit a healing response in different areas of the body. These distal points for treatment of neck pain are considered to be especially useful for acute disorders, and are also suitable for more chronic ones. Our classical texts, many reaching back thousands of years, help us think about the channel system and the unusual nature of these distal points.
For instance, the Huang Di Nei Jing (The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine) says,
“The three yins of the arm go from the organs to the hands. The three yangs of the arm go from the hands to the head. The three yangs of the legs go from the head to the feet. The three yins of the legs go from the feet to the abdomen.”
Biomedical research as well as the classical texts of Chinese medicine all indicate how acupuncture can contribute to the treatment of neck pain.
Call Watershed Wellness today to schedule an acupuncture appointment to see what this modality can do for you.
(1) Villarroel, Lisa., Mardian, Aram. “The Arizona Pain and Addiction Curriculum Faculty Guide.” ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH SERVICES September 1, 2018. Accessed June 20, 2020. azdhs.gov/audiences/clinicians/arizona-pain-addiction-curriculum
(2) “Is It Time to Give Acupuncture a Try for Pain Relief?” Harvard Women’s Health Watch, vol. 23, no. 6, Feb. 2016, p. 3. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=c8h&AN=112372422&site=ehost-live.