Acupuncture for Neck Pain
From acute muscle spasms to chronic tightness and tension, acupuncture is a safe and effective therapy to treat neck pain. Neck pain is very common and is often caused by poor posture, sitting for extended periods (especially while looking at a computer monitor or personal digital device) or sleeping without proper neck support. Whether neck pain is caused by bulging or herniated discs, whiplash, arthritis, disc degeneration, muscle spasm or changes in the soft tissues of the neck, acupuncture for neck pain can effectively resolve the associated pain, inflammation and improve mobility.
Another common cause for neck pain is mental/emotional stress. This is one of the most common causes of neck pain and tension in Kristin’s clinic.
When we are under stress, whether acute or chronic, the body’s hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis responds by triggering a cascade of reactions to alert the body into action. There are a number of physiological responses resulting from the HPA axis being switched on, including:
- pupils dilate
- blood flow is shunted from the torso toward the limbs
- heart rate increases
- blood pressure increases
- pores open
- fertility is stopped
- digestion is slowed
- metabolism speeds up
- muscles of the neck and upper back contract
We are designed for the body to respond in this way so if there were a direct threat to our survival, only the most essential functions to ensure our safety would be engaged to help us fight, flee, or freeze.
While this mechanism is rarely necessary in the modern developed world to keep us safe from predatory animals or other humans, it is often triggered in response to day to day stress.
Our brain cannot distinguish between a real threat to our survival and a perceived one, so when we are mentally stressed about something in our current reality, the brain processes this as a real threat and the HPA axis is continuously activated. Albeit, to a much lesser degree than it would be if there were an actual bear chasing us as opposed to a forgotten email response.
In addition to improving localized circulation of qi and blood to the muscle tissues of the neck, acupuncture works to alleviate neck pain by disrupting the stress response of the HPA axis and initiating the relaxation response of the body.
There are many acupuncture meridians traversing the muscles of the neck. A meridian is a pathway that qi / vital life force or energy flows along, distributing blood, oxygen and nourishment to various organs and tissues of the body. Pain in any one of these meridians indicates a blockage in the circulation of qi, known as qi stagnation.
“Where there is pain, there is no free flow”. This is a statement of fact in TCM and thus the mechanism by which acupuncture for neck pain works is that it stimulates and disperses stagnation along the meridians.
Acupuncture for neck pain works to stop pain by circulating energy and fluids throughout the tissues and organs of the body.
Many patients with neck pain have limited mobility of either flexion, extension, or rotation and acupuncture for neck pain should improve range of motion immediately. It is strongly recommended patients with chronic neck pain focus on physical integration in conjunction with acupuncture therapy.
Physical integration includes stretching those muscle groups which have shortened in length and strengthening those which have lost tone. Sitting bent over a computer or phone is particularly problematic because it forces the head and neck into a position that is oppositional to neck’s the natural curvature. As a result, many people with neck pain need to take appropriate measures to restore the natural curve of the neck.
Addressing neck pain sooner rather than later is important for the preventing the development of arthritis in the neck. The longer inflammation persists in the joints of the neck bones, the more likely arthritis will develop. Whether you have been struggling with acute neck pain and immobility or have a more chronic condition, acupuncture for neck pain has been proven to stop pain and increase mobility.