Pain affecting the neck is a common condition seen in our acupuncture practice. It may be caused by muscle spasm, neck sprain from a whiplash, prolonged working on a computer or stress. Other reasons for neck pain include degenerative disc disease, herniated disc or a pinched nerve. Neck pain is often referred to as cervicalgia.
The most common causes of neck pain from the viewpoint of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) include:
External pathogens such as wind cold or wind heat invasion.
Internal factors such as stress and heat with upsurging Liver and Gall Bladder energy (often seen in hypertension).
Sports injuries, whiplash and trauma due to motor vehicle accidents
Muscle tightness from prolonged working on computers or keyboards
The pain is often dull and aching in nature, often aggravated by movement of the neck. In severe cases the neck is stiff and the slightest movement induces a sharp pain. Other symptoms associated with neck pain are numbness, tingling, tenderness, sensation of fullness, vertigo and swollen glands.
There are seven cervical vertebrae that form the spine of the neck. Between these vertebrae are discs and at each level a pair of nerves emerge from the spinal cord, to innervate the periphery of the body. Other structures include the neck muscles, arteries, veins, lymph glands, thyroid gland, the esophagus, larynx and trachea. Any condition affecting these structures or organs may lead to neck pain.
Treatment of neck pain with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM):
Chinese medicine consists of a variety of modalities including acupuncture, cupping, moxibustion, Tui Na adjustments, massage, herbal supplements, herbal muscle relaxants, analgesics, herbal liniments, poultices and topical pain patches. Depending on the type of neck pain one or several of these may be employed. Both acupuncture and herbal medicine provide powerful and lasting relieve from neck pain. Acute pain usually resolves fast and if caused by whiplash it is not unusual to cut healing time by a third.
Chronic neck pain that has lingered on for many years resulting from degenerative disc disease, herniated discs, or spinal stenosis responds well to TCM. Treatments need to be done persistently to stop the disease process and reverse the degeneration. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs strengthen the tissues of the neck, rejuvenate the discs and cartilage, and release muscle spasm. Depending on the severity of the condition, therapy may require several months of treatments but avoiding surgery of the neck is well worth the effort.