The problem with neck pain is that it doesn't just affect your neck. When the pain begins, you may tense your shoulder and upper back muscles in response. Eventually, the muscles become so taut that you begin to experience headaches and shoulder and back pain. Those tight muscles worsen your symptoms and cause a seemingly never-ending cycle of neck pain. Acupuncture can break the cycle and ease your pain.
Neck Pain is a Common Problem
Approximately 30 to 50 percent of us suffer from neck pain every year, according to the International Association for the Study of Pain. Pain can be caused by falls, accidents, whiplash, pinched nerves, herniated discs, arthritis or fibromyalgia. You may also develop neck pain if you have poor posture or spend hours in one position. Some types of exercise, such as swimming or any activity that involves repetitive head movements, can increase your risk of neck pain. When you constantly moving your head back and forth during those activities, you may develop strains in your muscles, tendons or ligaments. Even stress or sleeping in an awkward position can cause the painful symptoms.
How Can Acupuncture Help?
Acupuncture relieves both pain and inflammation in your neck. During treatments, thin needles are placed in your body at strategic points to eliminate blockages that prevent Qi, your body's life force, from flowing freely. Unlike pain medication, which often has side effects, acupuncture is a completely natural pain control method that won't make you feel drowsy or nauseated.
In addition to the anti-inflammatory effects of acupuncture, the treatment also encourages your body to release endorphins, natural chemicals that ease pain. It may be helpful in improving range of motion in the neck, reducing headaches, preventing muscle spasms and relieving pain in the back and shoulders.
Depending on the cause of your pain, acupuncture treatments may not completely relieve your pain, but may significantly decrease it. Thanks to acupuncture treatments, you may be able to take pain medication less frequently or reduce your dosage.
Does Acupuncture Really Work?
Numerous research studies have proven the effectiveness of acupuncture for neck and other types of pain. When the UK's National Health Service studied acupuncture as a treatment for chronic neck pain, researchers discovered that 68 percent of patients surveyed had a successful outcome and noted a 50 percent improvement in pain symptoms. Even one year after discontinuing acupuncture treatments, 40 percent of the patients who received acupuncture reported less pain.
A meta analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in October 2012 revealed that acupuncture for chronic neck pain was superior to sham acupuncture treatments or no treatment at all.
What Types of Acupuncture Treatments Are Available?
If you have neck pain, you may benefit from one of these three acupuncture treatments:
- Body Acupuncture. Thin needles placed in your neck, head and shoulder can ease your pain. Acupuncture needles may also be placed at specific points that correspond to the meridians that serve the neck, such as the spine or the soft tissue between the thumb and index finger. Although you might feel a slight pricking or dull ache when the needles are inserted, acupuncture treatments usually aren't painful.
- Auricular Acupuncture. Every part of your ear is linked to a specific section of your body. Placing needles in the acupuncture points that correspond to your neck can be very helpful. Auricular acupuncture may be used alone or in conjunction with body acupuncture.
- Electroacupuncture. During electroacupuncture, the needles are connected to a mild electrical current. The current stimulates the flow of Qi, reduces spasms, promotes healing and may even help relax hard knots in your muscles called trigger points. Electroacupuncture isn't painful, although you'll probably notice a vibrating sensation during the treatment.
In addition to these types of treatments, your acupuncture practitioner may recommend herbal medications that can enhance the effects of acupuncture treatment. You'll also be provided with recommendations on diet and exercise that will help you stay healthy and pain free.
Would you like to finally find relief for your neck pain? Call us to schedule your first acupuncture session.
Acupuncture in Medicine: Acupuncture for Chronic Neck Pain
Journal of the American Medical Association: Acupuncture for Chronic Pain, 10/22/12
Healthcare Medicine Institute:Acupuncture Alleviates Neck Pain, Increases Motion, 1/20/16
International Association for the Study of Pain: Neck Pain, 10/09