A man came to my acupuncture office in Mesa, AZ experiencing extreme neck pain. On a one to ten scale it was about one hundred out of ten. It began at the top of his shoulder and radiated up his neck and into his head. He would grimace and cry out in pain with the slightest movement of his neck. It was probably the worst case of neck pain I had ever treated in over 20 years of practice. So I took a deep breath, called upon my master teachers and the ancient physicians for additional wisdom and began the treatment. My experience told me that his neck and shoulders were too irritated and inflamed to needle directly so I began looking for points on his feet and ankles to alleviate his neck pain. Wait a minute. Points on the feet and ankles get rid of neck pain? Seriously? Yep. I started out by pressing on the points I knew to be effective for this particular type of neck pain. If simply pressing on the point lessened the severity of the pain then I needled the point. If the point did not change the pain then I moved on to another. I did this until…..until his pain went away. That’s right, it was gone. Even I was blown away. I gave a silent thank you to my teachers for their help and talked to my patient about a treatment plan and follow up care. A couple of days later he called to say that he would be undergoing a nerve ablation treatment that his doctor recommended. I was very disappointed with that news because I felt that by following the treatment plan he would have had a successful out come and avoided surgery.
A year later, much to my surprise, the same man called for an appointment. His neck pain had returned after the ablation with a vengeance and he remembered that I had helped him a year ago. I’m glad he called but I am more than a little concerned. It’s been a year later and he’s had surgery. Has his condition worsened since I last treated him? Will the acupuncture still be effective? Once again I call on my master teachers and the ancient physicians and with my patient together we are able to alleviate his neck pain with acupuncture. I am happy to say this time around he followed the treatment plan and has been pain free.
Neck pain can happen for many different reasons. In this patient’s case, he had a severe trigger point in his upper shoulder muscle that referred pain to his neck and head. A trigger point is a hypersensitive spot in the muscle tissue that refers pain to another area of the body. The acupuncture, over a series of treatments reduced inflammation, calmed the irritation, relaxed the muscle and extinguished the trigger point.
Other causes of neck pain are whiplash, falls or sports injuries. Sometimes people wake up with a stiff painful neck. In Chinese Medicine this is called “head fell off pillow”. Sleeping under an open window or sleeping or sitting for a long time under air conditioning vents activates trigger points and causes muscle spasms in the neck.
Chronic conditions like arthritis, degenerated or herniated discs can cause neck pain as well as tingling and numbness in the arms and hands. Inflammation, sprains, strains and wear and tear all contribute to neck pain as well.
Acupuncture reduces pain and inflammation, relaxes tight muscles and increases range of motion in the neck. If you are experiencing neck pain and stiffness you don’t have to suffer. Call for an appointment- you can be on your way to being pain free sooner than you think.
In Motion Orthopedic and Sports Acupuncture
4435 E. Broadway Rd. Suite 4
Mesa, AZ 85206
Photo: Creative Commons