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  • Writer's pictureNicci

Can acupuncture help neck pain?

Updated: Jul 29, 2023


Red headed woman with long neck

Neck pain is a common condition that affects a significant portion of the population at some point in their lives. While traditional treatments such as medication and physical therapy are commonly used, an increasing number of individuals are turning to alternative therapies like acupuncture for relief. Acupuncture, an ancient Chinese practice, has gained attention for its potential in managing neck pain.

Causes of neck pain

Neck pain can have various causes, and understanding these underlying factors is important for appropriate diagnosis and treatment. Here are some common causes of neck pain:


1. Muscle Strain: One of the most common causes of neck pain is muscle strain or sprain, often due to poor posture, overuse, or sudden awkward movements. Activities like working at a computer for extended periods, sleeping in an uncomfortable position, or carrying heavy loads improperly can strain the neck muscles.

2. Neck Injury: Traumatic incidents such as whiplash from a car accident or a sports-related injury can lead to neck pain. These injuries may damage the soft tissues, ligaments, or tendons in the neck, causing pain and stiffness.

3. Herniated or Bulging Discs: The neck consists of intervertebral discs that act as shock absorbers between the vertebrae. If a disc becomes herniated or bulges, it can put pressure on nearby nerves, resulting in neck pain, along with possible radiating pain or numbness into the arms.

4. Degenerative Conditions: Conditions like cervical osteoarthritis or cervical spondylosis involve the wear and tear of the cervical spine over time. These degenerative changes can lead to the development of bone spurs, narrowing of the spinal canal, and compressed nerves, causing neck pain and stiffness.

5. Poor Posture: Maintaining improper posture for prolonged periods, such as slouching or hunching over a desk, can strain the muscles and ligaments in the neck, leading to pain.

6. Stress and Tension: Emotional and psychological stress can manifest physically as tension and tightness in the neck and shoulder muscles, resulting in neck pain.

7. Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, meningitis, or spinal infections, can cause neck pain as a symptom. These conditions usually have accompanying symptoms that help differentiate them from other causes.


It is important to note that this list is not exhaustive, and other factors, such as nerve impingements, tumours, or referred pain from other regions, can also cause neck pain. If you experience persistent or severe neck pain, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.


At Acupuncture Surrey we have undertaken training which helps us to better understand the cause of your neck pain. We may refer you on to other therapists or back to your GP if our testing indicate a neck issue that cannot be effectively treated with acupuncture or which requires further investigation.


Research into acupuncture for neck pain


Numerous studies have been conducted to explore the efficacy of acupuncture in managing neck pain. Several systematic reviews of trials of acupuncture or cupping therapy have found them effective in reducing the intensity of neck pain (Cagnie 2015; Yuan 2015; Kim 2018; Seo 2017). In addition, studies have shown that the benefits of acupuncture for neck pain may be maintained up to 12 months after treatment (Cerzo-Tellez 2016; MacPherson 2015). No serious adverse effects have been reported in systematic reviews or trials of acupuncture or cupping for the management of neck pain (Yuan 2015; Kim 2018; Ho 2017; Cerzo-Tellez 2016). For further details of the studies mentioned above please refer to https://acupuncture.org.uk/fact-sheets/neck-pain-2019/.


How does acupuncture work?


Acupuncture is based on the concept of balancing the body's vital energy, known as Qi, by stimulating specific points along the body's meridians. The technique involves the insertion of thin needles into these points to regulate the flow of Qi and restore harmony within the body. While the exact mechanisms underlying acupuncture's effects are not yet fully understood, several theories have been proposed. It is believed that acupuncture stimulates the release of endorphins, the body's natural pain-relieving chemicals, which can help alleviate discomfort and promote a sense of well-being. Additionally, acupuncture may modulate nerve signalling and promote local tissue healing, contributing to pain reduction.


How does cupping therapy work?


Cupping is a therapeutic technique that involves creating a vacuum inside cups placed on the skin to draw the underlying tissue upwards. Cupping is commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine, but it is also practiced in other traditional healing systems around the world. It is often used to address musculoskeletal pain, inflammation, and various other conditions. The suction created by cupping is thought to increase blood circulation to the area, relax muscles, and promote the flow of Qi (vital energy) in the body.

After cupping, circular marks or bruises may appear on the skin. These marks are temporary and typically fade within a few days to a week. Some people find cupping to be a relaxing and therapeutic experience, while others may experience temporary discomfort during or after the procedure.


Conclusion


When considering acupuncture or cupping for neck pain, it is crucial to consult with a qualified acupuncturist or healthcare professional who can assess your condition and provide personalized guidance. They can determine whether acupuncture is an appropriate treatment option for you and help create an integrated treatment plan that addresses your specific needs.


At Acupuncture Surrey we offer a free, no obligation, 15 minute introductory call for those wishing to explore whether acupuncture could help them. Please contact us on info@acupuncture-surrey.co.uk for further information.

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