Neck pain is very common. About 2 in 3 people had neck pain at some point in their life. A survey in the UK has shown that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 5 men between ages 45 and 75 had current neck pain.
The cervical spine and the muscles and ligaments are at the back of the neck. The cervical spine is made up of seven vertebraes between which is a disc. Spinal cord is within the spine and protected by the spine. Nerves come out from the cervical spine and innervated the neck and arms.
Non specific neck is the most common type of neck pain. The exact cause is unknown. It may caused by minor strains to the muscles and ligaments in the neck. Poor posture is often related to the neck pain.
The nuchal ligament and neck pain
The nuchal ligament is a ligament at the midline of the neck which extends from the bottom of the skull to the spinous process of the seventh cervical vertibrae which is the lowest cervical vertebrae on the neck. It forms a septum between the muscles on the either side of the neck. There are four muscles including trapezius, splenius capitis, rhomboid minor and serratus posterior superior attached the nuchal ligament. The nuchal ligament limits flexion of the neck, stabilizes the neck and affects muscular activity in the neck. Trauma and overuse of nuchal ligament can result in ossification of the ligament which causes neck stiffness and pain, progressive cervical spine instability and malalignment and nerve route irritation. Acupuncture can help release neck stiffness and neck pain.
Acupuncture treatment for chronic neck pain
Chronic neck pain is a long-lasting pain on the neck or back. This pain commonly started from improperly healed acute injury. Scar tissues formed during the healing process. These scar tissues are called fibrosis. They can develop inside of the body, under the skin, muscles, tendons or inside of a joint capsule. Fibrosis always occurs at the end stage of inflammation and it causes adhesion which grabs the connective tissue and surrounding muscles together causing pain and tension, limiting the function. There are more pain receptors in the fibrosis tissue making the area more sensitive to protect the area by the body automatically.
Acupuncture can help to release the pain and tension to help the area functioning. Also acupuncture can help the body repair to get rid of the scar tissue and remodel the tissue.
Acupuncture for sudden severe pain in the neck
Acute neck pain is a sudden-onset pain in the neck. It is often due to neck muscles strain and muscle spasm. This can be caused by poor posture, sleep in an awkward position, carrying heavy loads, stay in one position for a prolonged period of time etc. One might not find exactly causes. The pain is sudden and can be very severe. This makes the person with the pain panicking. Movement of the neck is restricted because of the pain. The recovery can take a few days or a week. Acupuncture can help release the pain and speed up the recovery.
Acupuncture helps a stiff neck
Neck pain or a stiff neck is a common problem. The neck becomes sore and tender and movement is limited. it is difficult to move the neck and turn the head to the side. It could be associated with a headache, neck pain, shoulder pain or arm pain. The most common cause of a stiff neck is a muscle strain or soft tissue sprain. The levator scapula muscle located at the back and side of the neck connecting the neck with the shoulder is most affected. These muscles can be strained by everyday activities: for example, sleep in an awkward position, use a computer for a prolonged period of time, have a bad posture or have some sports injury such as swimming sudden fall, hold a phone between the neck and shoulder etc. Anxiety and stress can cause tension in the neck muscles leading to neck pain. Tight muscles are often chronic and need to be treated. Tight muscles block blood circulation of the body and muscles don’t get enough nutrition and become weak and easily get further damage. Because of blocked energy supply, you will feel tired all the time. Poor posture is a common cause of tight neck and shoulders. This causes overuse some groups of muscles and causes micro injury to the muscles which become tight to protect themselves from further injury. Furthermore the tight neck and shoulders will make poor posture worse. It becomes a viscous circle. This needs to be treated, otherwise tight neck and shoulders would not resolve itself. Stretching the muscles, applying heat or warm bath may help. Acupuncture is very effective to release the muscle tension, reduce the tightness, correct poor posture and improve blood circulation. Acupuncture can help stiff neck by relaxing muscles spasm.
How many needles are suitable for neck pain treatment with acupuncture?
How many needle numbers are used to obtain best effect? Ceccherelli F et al from University of Padova Italy studied this subject. They compared the clinical efficacy of different number of needles used in patients with mayofascial pain. There were 36 patients between 29-60 years of age with cervical myofacial syndrome participated the study. These patients were divided into two groups: 18 patients were in the first group and treated with 5 needles; another 18 patients were in the second group and treated with 11 needles. The same of needle stimulating time and the same cycle of treatment were applied to both groups. Pain intensity was evaluated before, immediately after and 1 and 3 months after the treatment. The needles in the two most painful trigger points were inserted deeply and other needles were applied superficially. They found that a good treatment effect was obtained in both groups and this is not associated with the number of needles used. Their conclusion was that the number of needles either 5 or 11 used is not essential to obtain good therapeutic effect when the simulation time remains the same.
Physiotherapy and chiropractic treatments are popular options for treating neck pain. Do you know that physiotherapist and chiropractors also use acupuncture to treat neck pain? What treatment options are available for neck pain? There was an international survey with Canada having the largest response to investigate physical medicine, complementary and alternative medicine utilization amongst 360 clinicians treating patients with neck pain. Both physiotherapist and chiropractors used exercise and manual therapies which is 98-99%. Physiotherapists used exercise, orthoses and 'other' interventions more, while chiropractors used phototherapeutics more. 46% acupuncture is used by these professions to treat neck pain. If you go to see a physiotherapist or a chiropractor, you may get an acupuncture treatment from them.
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