Acupuncture for Neck Pain
What is neck pain?
Neck pain is a common condition so common, in fact, that the expression
"a pain in the neck" is an oft-used figure of speech in English.
It can be mild enough so that it is a mere annoyance, or severe enough
that it can adversely affect the quality of one's life. Because of
its position and range of motion, and because it plays a vital role in
the support of the head, the neck is more subject to injury than any other
portion of the spine. While it is much less frequent than back pain, neck
pain can occasionally be severe enough to warrant attention from a licensed
Neck pain can have a variety of causes. Keeping your head in an awkward
position can cause your neck muscles to fatigue and the joints in your
neck to "lock" in place, causing discomfort, stiffness and limited
range of motion. Neck pain can also be caused by a sudden force (such
as an automobile accident), or a medical condition (swelling, disease,
tumors, bleeding, inflammation, etc.). Some neck pain can also cause headaches
(see the "Acupuncture for Headaches and Head Pain" section for
Who suffers from neck pain?
Almost everyone will experience some sort of neck pain or stiffness during
their lifetime; however, certain occupations appear to be predisposed
to neck symptoms. Manual laborers, for instance, have more symptoms than
office workers, and the type of work seems to affect the risk. A person's
age and a history of twisting and bending during work can also contribute.
Workers who have been required to do repetitive tasks with their upper
extremities, or who undergo periods of prolonged sitting with their head
in a flexed position (such as typing on a keyboard at a desk) are at risk
of developing mechanical neck pain.
What can acupuncture do for neck pain?
Studies have shown acupuncture to be effective in relieving certain types
of neck pain, particularly those caused by whiplash. Some studies suggest
acupuncture can treat degenerative neck disorders such as ankylosing spondylosis
and cervical spondylosis; in many cases, acupuncture has worked for patients
whose conditions could not be solved using conventional approaches.
Acupressure and herbal medicine are sometimes used in conjunction with
acupuncture for neck pain. Applying acupressure to the neck muscles can
reduce spasm and lessen pain, leading to a relaxed state and a heightened
sense of well-being. Depending on the patient's condition, certain
herbal products can be used to improve circulation and blood flow and
ease muscle contraction.
- Coan RM, Wong G, Coan PL. The acupuncture treatment of neck pain:
a randomized controlled study. Amer J Chin Med 1982;9:326-332.
- David J, Modi S, Aluko AA, Robertshaw C, Farebrother J. Chronic neck
pain: a comparison of acupuncture treatment and physiotherapy. British
Journal of Rheumatology 1998;37:1118-1122.
- Hansen JA. A comparative study of two methods of acupuncture treatment
for neck and shoulder pain. Acupuncture in Medicine 1997;15:71-73.
- Ross J, White A, Ernst E. Western, minimal acupuncture for neck pain:
a cohort study. Acupuncture in Medicine 1999;17:5-8.
- White AR, Ernst E. A systematic review of randomized controlled trials
of acupuncture for neck pain. Rheumatology (Oxford) 1999;38:143-147.
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