Can you use acupuncture for neck pain, you ask? Oh yes, yes you can.
A Case Study of Acupuncture for Neck Pain
Let me tell you a very common tale of neck pain. This one involves a lady we shall call Andrea. Andrea works in an office managing projects. Andrea sits in front of a computer for 8-9 hours a day. Already sound familiar? AND Andrea uses a cell phone, a lot. Just like the rest of us.
When Andrea came to see me, she had neck and upper back pain that radiated up and caused headaches. She felt little bit of tingling in one of her arms, at the elbow, but the worst part was the headaches. Her neck pain and headaches increased with desk/computer work, and had been getting worse every day for the week before she came in.
Most Common Cause of Neck Pain
I’m gonna put Andrea’s story aside for a minute, and talk about why neck pain is so common in this technological age. This is why:
Do you see those necks. There’s a new word on the street for it….text neck. It’s brutal, and it’s ubiquitous. The forward jutting of the neck and head is not new, it is a common postural problem. But now it’s so common. Why? On top of how we drive and work at the computer, we have added cell phone use to this picture. Some statistic says we spend only 2 waking hours a day without our phone in our hands. And with children now using cell phones and tablets, the x-rays of 14 year old kids look like 60 year old necks. It’s the straightening of the neck curve, and this causes problems for the rest of your body. The most glaring though, is pulling and pain at your upper trapezius, neck and headaches. This pulling is due to the increased weight of your head pulling at your cervical spine.
Now without an xray, can you know if you are loosing the curvature in your neck? Well, first clue is where are your ears in relation to your shoulders? With a proper curve in your neck, they are directly over your shoulders. If you dangled a string from your earlobes, where would it hit your body? Would it hit your body?
How to Treat Neck Pain with Acupuncture
Lets get back to Andrea. Remember, her main complaint was neck pain that led to headaches when she came to my office. We first did physical exam to rule out injury of the cranial nerves, and/or vertebral disk injury. What I did find was when I pressed on knots in her shoulders and neck, she felt a reproduction of her headache symptoms. This is a good indicator that myofascial trigger points are the culprit, and this guided my treatment decisions. I started by cupping of her upper back and neck plus yoga movements with the cups on. Not only do we get a decompression action of the cups themselves, but we get a shearing force to pull apart tissues that are chronically stuck together.
The second and very important part of the treatment was trigger point acupuncture, or dry needling, directly into the trigger points in the upper trapezius and sides of her neck. This part was crucial to break up the old persistent knots that were pulling at her neck and head, a cause of her neck pain and headaches.
The third component to Andrea’s treatment, was electro-acupuncture. Using the needles that were applied for dry needling, we hooked electricity up to the points, to increase the stimulation on the needles with electric pulses that are especially good for pain relief.
After the trigger point acupuncture, Andrea was quite sore for a day, which is very normal. But after her soreness subsided, she reported a 50% decrease in her neck pain. She came in weekly for about a month after that, and then every two weeks for another two months. At that point, her neck pain and headaches were very infrequent, and when they would start again, she immediately would return for acupuncture and cupping.
All the acupuncture in the world isn’t going to change the way your bones are stacking if you don’t change how you interact with your technology. Recommendations are all over the internet, but here are three very simple things that are easy to do.
- Lift your phone up when you are looking at it. Don’t have your head so bent forward.
- Move your computer screen to eye level. Easy.
- Tuck your chin a little, like you are making a double chin, and place your tongue gently behind your upper teeth. This naturally flexes your neck a little bit, enhancing the natural curve of your neck.