One report published in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy has found that as much as 20% of the population is experiencing neck pain at any given time, with an astounding 54% of people reporting having suffered neck pain at some point in the prior six months. The most common cause of neck pain is muscle strains which, in turn, are most commonly caused by poor posture or neck support. Treatment options for neck pain include the application of ice and heat, physical therapy and stretching, pain medication and steroid injections, muscle relaxants and even traction. What about acupuncture? Can acupuncture help you with neck pain and stiffness?
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a 3,000-year-old healing practice that focuses on nerve points (called meridians or pathways) that allow your qi or energy to move throughout the body. Treating those meridians using tiny thread-like needles at strategic points allow your qi to travel throughout your body effectively and in balance. Restoring the qi’s balance in your body is intended to treat many symptoms of disease, including depression and anxiety.
Each needle stimulates a nerve in your body. That stimulation travels to your brain which responds by releasing endorphins via the body’s immune system. Those endorphins are natural painkillers that travel throughout the body to offer relief and promote healing. Some studies have also found that acupuncture can stimulate biomechanical changes in your body — where the needles are placed and in your central nervous system. Those biomechanical changes may provide pain relief in addition to the relief offered by the release of endorphins from your body’s immune system.
Don’t be surprised while receiving acupuncture near you for neck pain that your acupuncturist is placing needles far from your neck. The meridians targeted by acupuncture treatment do not necessarily associate directly with the location of pain, restricted motion or discomfort. Acupuncture treatment for neck pain is a good example of a situation when treatment occurs in locations far from the area of pain. A July 2017 study entitled Efficacy of abdominal acupuncture for neck pain: A randomized controlled trial discussed the effectiveness of acupuncture treatment in your abdominal region for providing relief from neck pain.
In addition to acupuncture treatment for neck pain, practitioners have identified acupressure as a potential source of relief from neck stiffness and pain. Five pressure points have been identified as associated with neck pain: Jian Jing in your shoulder muscles; He Gu on the web of skin between your thumb and forefinger; Wind Pool behind your earlobe; Zhong Zu between the knuckles about your small and ring fingers; and Heaven’s Pillar on either side of your neck near the base of your skull.
Medical literature includes reports suggesting acupuncture can provide at least temporary relief from reduced range of neck motion and neck pain. Other reports confirm that acupuncture can reduce the body’s experience of stress generally. That reduction of stress experienced by your body can pay off with improved neck function and comfort; heightened stress levels are a significant risk factor for neck pain.
If you suffer from neck stiffness or pain for any reason — or reasons unknown — and are interested in exploring holistic and complementary remedies to improve your range of motion, comfort and lifestyle, contact a clinic that provides acupuncture in North York for an assessment of your symptoms and needs. Even if other “traditional” remedies have been ineffective, this even-more-traditional remedy may be just what you’re looking for.