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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Staud R. Mechanisms of acupuncture analgesia: effective therapy for musculoskeletal pain? Curr Rheumatol Rep.2007;9(6):473-481; PMID: 18177601