Effective Solutions for Neck Pain
Can acupuncture be an effective treatment solution for neck pain?
YES! There is a growing body studies and clinical evidence that proves how effective acupuncture can be for treating neck pain. Acupuncture’s popularity for treating neck pain is being fuelled by a combination of both its effectiveness and its lack of side unwanted and harmful side effects.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO)
Acupuncture has been proved – through controlled clinic trials – to be an effective treatment for neck pain.
It is estimated; about 90% individuals who have received acupuncture for neck pain are cured or improved according to domestic and international statistics in China. Although many people overseas may not be convinced about the efficacy of acupuncture for neck pain, the trend is that more and more people are seeking relief from acupuncture to assist the wearisome neck pain.
The World Health Organization has cited 104 different conditions that acupuncture can treat including migraine, sinusitis, the common cold, tonsillitis, asthma, addictions, myopia, duodenal ulcer, gastrointestinal disorders, neuralgia, sciatica, and osteoarthritis. Acupuncture has also been found to be effective in the treatment of a variety of rheumatoid conditions, hormonal imbalances, depression, anxiety, and other disorders. One important use is like a natural pain relief, stimulating the release of endorphins and enkephalins (the natural pain-killing chemicals).
A prompt for your acupuncture therapist
Remember to try to accurately describe your pain to your acupuncturist. For instance, the sensation of pain may be sharp, stabbing, burning or contracting type of pain. Also include the symptoms of stiffness, radiating pain or loss of sensation in the hand or fingers. Of utmost importance, point out the exact location of the pain and the areas of radiating pain.
The external pathogens, (the wind and the cold) in acupuncture, invade the neck and upper back causing stagnation of Qi and blood in the meridians or invasion of pathogen cold. These two components manifest of neck pain. Additionally, be aware of delays in receiving treatment, or improper treatment, are causes that may prolong neck pain, which eventually may also lead to further damage.
Deep seated anger or stress can lead to neck pain. In Chinese medicine CM, the liver (wood element) is associated with the emotions, mainly anger. When you consider that the neck joins our head with our chest; there could be a strong emotional connection which reflexes through the neck.
Posture or Injury
Physical injury, accidents, sports injuries, poor posture, or simple excess physical strain of the neck will affect normal circulation of Qi blood. These obstacles cause disharmony of the meridians which obstructs the tendons, impairs the muscles and leads to stagnation of Qi and Blood culminating in neck pain.
Acupuncture & Neck Pain
“In 2006, a German group reported a study that was carried out on 14,161 (not a typo!) Patients with chronic neck pain3. Patients were placed in either an acupuncture treatment group or a control group in which they received no acupuncture. Patients in the acupuncture group received acupuncture treatments over three months. All subjects were allowed to receive usual medical care. After three months, the patients treated with acupuncture improved more than patients who only received usual medical care.”
“These studies show that acupuncture has been proven to be an effective treatment for arthritic pain control. This is a technique that has essentially no side effects. Of course, it’s essential to follow up the improvements with physical therapy so that you can begin your journey to better function and overall health. Remember, the only lasting pain relief will come from a body that is stronger and healthier. This is something that all of us should work on every day.”
- Meng CF, Wang D, Ngeow J, et al. Acupuncture for chronic low back pain in older patients: a randomized, controlled trial. Rheumatology (Oxford); 2003 Dec; 42 (12):1508–17.
- Vas J, Méndez C, Perea-Milla E, Vega E, et al. Acupuncture as a complementary therapy to the pharmacological treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee: randomised controlled trial. BMJ. 2004; Nov 20;329 (7476):1216.
- Witt CM; Jena S; Brinkhaus B; Liecker B, et al. Acupuncture for patients with chronic neck pain. Pain. 2006; 125(1–2): 98–106.
The results of a randomized trial of neck pain patients published in a recent issue of the British Medical Journal, however, appear to suggest otherwise. According to a team of German and Swedish researchers, acupuncture provides greater short-term pain relief and increases range of motion better than traditional massage techniques.
“Our study shows that acupuncture can be an effective treatment for chronic neck pain, if the objective is to relieve pain and to improve mobility of the cervical spine,” said Dr. Dominik Irnick of Ludwig-Maximilians University in Germany, one of three settings in which the trial was conducted.
In the study, 177 patients with chronic neck pain were randomly assigned to an acupuncture, massage or placebo group. Patients in the acupuncture group were treated at local, remote and ear acupoints, along with myofascial trigger points. The most commonly used points were SI3; UB10; UB60; Liv3; GB20; GB34; TE5; and the “cervical spine” ear point. In the massage group, patients were treated with a variety of Western techniques, including effleurage; petrissage; friction; tapotement and vibration. In the placebo group, sham laser acupuncture was performed using an inactivated laser pen on the same points as patients in the acupuncture group.
A blinded observer assessed the effectiveness of the treatments at six episodes during the course of care: at baseline; immediately after the first treatment; three days after the first treatment; immediately after the last treatment; one week after the last treatment; and three months after treatment. Researchers used a 100-point visual analogue scale to measure the amount of pain a patient suffered related to head movement, along with range of motion and tolerance to pressure. Spontaneous pain, motion-related pain and global pain were also documented, and a survey was administered to each patient to assess their quality of life.
Individuals treated with acupuncture reported greater reductions in pain both immediately after the first and last treatments, and one week after the last treatment, than those treated with massage. Patients in the acupuncture group improved an average of 24.22 points on pain related to motion one week after treatment, compared to only 7.89 points for massage patients. These differences were even more distinct among patients with myofascial pain syndrome (a condition characterized by muscle pain in specific areas of the neck that may be caused by physical or emotional tension) and patients who reported pain lasting more than five years.
The authors of the study were rather forthright in their praise of acupuncture. “Our results show that acupuncture is a safe form of treatment for people with chronic neck pain, and offers clear clinical advantages over conventional massage in the reduction of pain and improvement of mobility,” they wrote. In particular, it was suggested that acupuncture could be beneficial in treating patients with myofascial pain syndrome, which is estimated to be present in up to 90% of people with chronic neck pain and can be easily recognized through a patient’s case history or a detailed physical exam.
The scientists were less kind in their opinion of massage therapy. Even though it is one of the most common treatments for chronic neck pain – in fact, 77% of the study participants had used massage for pain relief before taking part in the trial – the authors concluded that “conventional massage had only a weak effect” in treating the condition effectively.
Some concerns were raised because the number of treatments (five) given was relatively small, and that they were delivered in a short amount of time. The scientists explained this issue by stating that they “did not want to treat patients with chronic pain with placebo for longer (than five sessions) for ethical reasons.” They also recommended that future research be conducted to determine the optimum number of treatments for the management of these patients.
“Acupuncture can be a safe form of treatment for patients with chronic neck pain if the objective is to obtain relief from pain related to motion and to improve cervical mobility,” the researchers concluded. “As neck pain may be a chronic condition with considerable socioeconomic impact, single forms of treatment may be inadequate, and acupuncture merits consideration.”
1. Irnich D, Behrens N, Molzen H, et al. Randomised trial of acupuncture compared with conventional massage and “sham” laser acupuncture for treatment of chronic neck pain. British Medical Journal June 30, 2001;322:1-6.
2. Huggins C. Acupuncture better than massage for neck pain. Reuters Health, June 29, 2001.
3. Woznicki K. Acupuncture better than massage. United Press International, June 28, 2001.
Acupuncture is both a viable and popular alternative to effectively help you with neck pain – without unwanted side effects.
Renew You Clinic’s Acupuncturist Lily Wu was an Acupuncture Doctor in China for 13 years. She has an extraordinary amount of experience (25 + years total now) with Traditional Chinese Medicine makes her quite a find for those seeking a highly qualified practitioner with loads of both practical and clinical experience.