Acupuncture Treatment for Neck and Shoulder Pain

Muscles and joints of the neck and shoulder take a beating in the modern world from computer overuse, smartphones, poor posture, stress, and injuries. The good news is that acupuncture can help treat neck and shoulder pain. [1,2]

Acupuncture helps to deeply relax the muscles in the neck and shoulders, reduce inflammation, and balance the nervous system which will help to reduce pain and stimulate healing.[3,4] This leads to long term relief even after the treatment course has finished.[5]

My approach centers on personalized treatments for each person.  We will target the pain and stiffness by addressing imbalances within the muscles, connective tissues, and acupuncture channels of the neck and shoulders.  The neck and shoulders are thoroughly integrated- neck pain often comes from trigger points on your shoulders-this is why we treat them together.

CAUSES FOR NECK AND SHOULDER PAIN

Overwork, stress, and strain are the some of the most frequent causes of chronic neck pain. This is one of the most common areas to store stress- as soon as one feels stress the pain begins.  Acupuncture is great at cutting off this cycle of stress and pain.

My method to acupuncture considers both your constitutional state of health as well as muscle tension and development of trigger points in the areas.

In acupuncture, Qi, the energy of the body, needs to be strong to support healthy relaxed muscles. If you do not have enough energy to support the muscles, they tense up as a result.  Another cause of pain is Qi stagnation, a slowing of the circulation of the energy.  Normally, the energy of the body flows smoothly.  Stagnation may develop from an injury, wear and tear, or chronic stress. This is why it is easy to develop pain during periods of high stress.

ACUPUNTURE TREATMENT FOR NECK AND SHOULDER PAIN

Acupuncture treatment for neck and shoulder pain may include a combination of acupuncture with electric stimulation, tui na (Chinese medical massage), and cupping. The therapy is tailored to each patient, and will depend on the root cause, location and quality of the pain, and the state of health of the patient.

If the imbalance is stagnation without weakness, then I used more acupuncture points at the location of pain. These people will often have more active trigger points which are areas of tenderness and stress in the muscle.

I will also select acupuncture points along the affected acupuncture channel that are farther away from the pain. This technique increases circulation in the acupuncture channels, which will reduce pain and speed healing.

When the root cause of the shoulder pain is an underlying weakness in the body’s energy, then less acupuncture points on the neck and shoulder will be used. These acupuncture points will focus on increasing the amount of energy in the body.

TREATING THE WHOLE PERSON

One of the great things about acupuncture is that it addresses the whole person, relaxing both the mind and body.  Disrupting the cycle of stress is important to reduce reoccurring pain.

The muscles are interconnected with fascia and other connective tissue. Tension from one area can create problems in other muscles. Often, trying to target and treat only the location of the pain does not relieve the tension in the surrounding muscle groups.

There is an old adage in acupuncture that tension even in the toes can affect the whole body.  This is particularly true when treating pain in the neck and shoulders. So we have to be mindful of not just the area at issue but the whole person.

References:

  1. Wilke J, Vogt L, Niederer D, et al. Short-term effects of acupuncture and stretching on myofascial trigger point pain of the neck: a blinded, placebo-controlled RCT. Complement Ther Med.2014;22(5):835-841; PMID: 25440373.
  2.  McKee MD, Kligler B, Fletcher J, et al. Outcomes of acupuncture for chronic pain in urban primary care. J Am Board Fam Med.2013;26(6):692-700; PMID: 24204065.
  3. Mejuto-Vazquez MJ, Salom-Moreno J, Ortega-Santiago R, et al. Short-term changes in neck pain, widespread pressure pain sensitivity, and cervical range of motion after the application of trigger point dry needling in patients with acute mechanical neck pain: a randomized clinical trial. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther.2014;44(4):252-260; PMID: 24568260.
  4. McDonald JL, Cripps AW, Smith PK. Mediators, Receptors, and Signalling Pathways in the Anti-Inflammatory and Antihyperalgesic Effects of Acupuncture. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med.2015;2015:975632; PMID: 26339274.
  5. Staud R. Mechanisms of acupuncture analgesia: effective therapy for musculoskeletal pain? Curr Rheumatol Rep.2007;9(6):473-481; PMID: 18177601

Acupuncture for fertility

Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years to treat various women’s health issues and improve fertility. Acupuncture became more widely used in infertility after a study found that women who received acupuncture before and after an in vitro fertilization embryo transfer had higher pregnancy rates than the control group.  Due to the results of this study, many physicians who treat fertility have come to embrace acupuncture for their patients and have seen their patients’ mood, stress levels, and overall health dramatically improve. 

Some ways acupuncture may benefit fertility treatment:

Stress reduction: Fertility treatment can be stressful, and while stress does not cause infertility, when it’s not managed it can cause other health challenges including poor sleep, sluggish or overactive digestion, emotional distress, and relationship challenges.

Increased blood flow: Studies have shown that acupuncture can impact local blood flow. In the case of infertility, increased blood flow is beneficial.

Ease mood and menstrual symptoms: Cramps, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and other uncomfortable symptoms associated with the menstrual cycle—loosely grouped under the term dysmenorrhea—are an area where acupuncture has been shown to have a beneficial effect.

Improved sense of control: Fertility treatment can be overwhelming. Used in conjunction with medical fertility treatment, this increased sense of control and improved overall health may have positive benefits on treatment outcomes. Since medical fertility treatments may take more than one cycle to achieve success, acupuncture can help patients stay in treatment and help alleviate the emotional and physical toll.

Regulation of Hormones Important for Fertility: Acupuncture has a regulatory effect on the hormones directly responsible for egg production. Acupuncture is able to  regulate hormones such as Estrogen, Luteinizing hormone (LH) and GnRH through the HPOA.    

Acupuncture Also Helps Male Fertility: Acupuncture is more thought of for female fertility but it's also extremely effective helping men reach their fertility potential. The three most commonly tested areas during a semen analysis will be Count (how many sperm), Motility (how well they are swimming) and Morphology (do they look normal).  Acupuncture can help improve all three aspects. 

Let's Talk About Trigger Point Acupuncture!

We all know the feeling, tightness, aching pain behind our shoulder blades in our lower back and necks. It’s no wonder we all experience this, our lives are spent sitting behind desks and hunched over looking at our phones. This leads to painful knots throughout our bodies that hinder us from being our happiest and healthiest selves. 

It’s so important to take care of our bodies and when we’re in pain we want to seek out the fastest, most effective treatments. Trigger point Acupuncture is that treatment! In an hour long session we are able to release those painful knots with little to no pain or side effects. Unlike western medicine’s approach to treating pain with pills, acupuncture focuses on treating the root cause and treats it in a noninvasive, holistic approach.

So what exactly is Trigger Point Acupuncture and what is a trigger point?

Trigger point acupuncture is a more aggressive form of traditional acupuncture, using direct manipulation of painful knots in the muscles known as trigger points. The goal is to cause the muscle or group of muscles causing the pain to twitch which typically leads to an immediate relief ofpain and tightness. 

Trigger points are caused by a wide variety of different things: injuries, improper or over-training,  incorrect posture or body mechanics, or just life, trigger point acupuncture returns the natural balance to your muscles. It is one of the safest ways to address physical problems!

How does it work?

The treatment is simple, hair thin, stainless steel needles are placed directly into the area of concern. You will usually feel a twitching sensation, don’t worry! This means it’s working. After the needles are inserted you are able to relax on the table for 45 minutes. Many patients use this time to catch a quick nap which is wonderful. It allows for optimal relaxation while your body restores itself! 

How is Trigger Point Acupuncture different from Dry Needling? 

It's pretty simple actually! Dry needling is essentially basic acupuncture performed by Chiropractors and Physical Therapists who do not hold a degree in Acupuncture. In order to obtain a Master's degree in Acupuncture and become a licensed Acupuncturist, one must complete a 3-4 year graduate study program which includes nearly 3000 hours of clinical hands on work practicing acupuncture. On the other hand, in order to practice dry needling a simple weekend course, sometimes as little as 23 hours, is all that is required of Chiropractors and Physical Therapists. 

What does Trigger Point Acupuncture treat?

  • Headaches
  • Neck Pain
  • Shoulder Pain
  • Tennis Elbow
  • Low Back Pain
  • Knee Pain 
  • Plantar Fasciitis

Does Trigger Point Acupuncture hurt?

For some people yes, for some no. The twitching can cause a momentary sensation of burning or tingling but it goes away almost immediately. There can be feelings of soreness, similar to post workout soreness, for up to 24 hours after the treatment. We think the relief it brings absolutely outweighs any feelings of discomfort!