With the hours we spend sitting, scrolling our phones, and hunched at computers, neck and shoulder pain is becoming increasingly common. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, all aches and pains are treated holistically, and a symptom like neck or shoulder pain can often be indicative of something deeper. These symptoms can be intrusive in our day to day lives (to say the least), and acupuncture is an effective way to treat the root of the issue..
When performed by a licensed specialist, acupuncture can be an extremely healing experience for conditionals such as muscle knots & tension, sciatica, hormonal imbalances, stress, digestion issues, and more. Acupuncture is rooted in Traditional Chinese Medicine and uses needles to work via the connective tissue and redistribute your body’s flow of energy.
Below, learn more about causes of neck pain, relevant acupuncture points, neck pain acupuncture, and the in-studio treatment options available.
Does Acupuncture Help Neck Pain?
Research has shown acupuncture to be an effective treatment for neck pain. Additional studies have found practices like dry needling and cupping to be impactful as well—and these can be especially healing when used in addition to acupuncture.
Neck pain can be connected with other joint pain, muscle knots, or even symptoms like fatigue, stress, and memory loss. As a holistic treatment, acupuncture can be beneficial not only for treating the particular area that’s bothering you, but also for managing the underlying cause.
Common Causes of Neck Pain
Speaking of the underlying cause, neck pain can be a result of many different factors. More acute neck pain can be caused by factors we mentioned earlier, like spending extended periods of time in a chair or on a couch, or by things like bad posture or an uncomfortable night’s sleep. It can also be caused by stress or tension.
Other times, neck pain might be the result of an injury from a car accident, a bad fall, extreme exercise, and so on. In an event where your head is caused to jerk outside of its normal range, a neck injury, often called whiplash, can occur.
Conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and osteoporosis can also contribute to neck pain, as well as the general degeneration of your bones as you age.
Typically, neck pain is something that comes and goes, and it is one of the most commonly treated symptoms in our acupuncture studios.
Acupuncture Benefits For Neck Pain
Not sure what to expect from your neck pain acupuncture appointment? As mentioned, the benefits of acupuncture are extremely vast. When receiving acupuncture for neck pain specifically, you can expect to feel relief from the pressure or pain you’ve been feeling in your neck, and also from any discomfort you might have in your shoulders or back. Because the points used (more on that later!) are often connected with things like headaches, sinus infections, fatigue, and muscle tension, relief of those symptoms is also a benefit of acupuncture for neck pain.
How Does Neck Pain Acupuncture Work?
If the thought of using needles to treat pain sounds counterintuitive to you, you’ll be happy to learn that neck pain acupuncture (or any acupuncture, for that matter) does not hurt. While you might feel a few sensations during your treatment, such as a light throbbing, heaviness, twitching, or warmth, the treatment overall should be a relaxing experience.
So how does it work? First, your acupuncture practitioner will ask questions to learn about the neck pain you are experiencing (and to identify those underlying causes). From there, they will develop a personalized treatment plan and will use 15-30 acupuncture needles in the points corresponding with the pain you are feeling. Typically, these needles will be left in for about 30 minutes.
As you relax, the needles will do their job to stimulate the energy flow and kickstart your body’s healing.
Again, while you may feel a slight pinch or a dull ache when the needle goes in, this will subside quickly—and most commonly, you will feel nothing at all.
What Are The Acupuncture Points For Neck Pain?
When you arrive at your acupuncture appointment, you might be surprised to learn that many of the acupuncture points for neck pain are not actually in your neck. Again, because acupuncture is a holistic treatment, your healer will be treating the areas that are connected with the underlying cause of your neck pain. The points in which your healer places the needles will work to stimulate circulation, and in turn will treat the symptom you are feeling: i.e. the pain in your neck.
A few of the most commonly used acupuncture points for neck pain are:
- Large Intestine 4 (LI4)
If you hold up your hand and spread your fingers, you can find the Large Intestine 4 point (LI4) on the skin between your thumb and your forefinger. This analgesic point is often stimulated during any acupuncture session in which you are treating aches and pains throughout your body. Neck pain is just one of the ailments this point will help relieve.
- Jian Jing / Gallbladder 21 (GB21)
Between your neck and your shoulder bone is the Jian Jing point. While it is particularly useful in treating muscle tension, migraines, and headaches (and sometimes even to help induce labor), acupuncture healers will also use this point for treating a sore or stiff neck.
- Zhong Zu / San Jiao 3 (SJ3)
Another acupuncture point on your hand, this point is located between your pinky and ring fingers. If your neck or shoulder pain is the result of stress or tension, your healer will likely activate this point. When stimulated, it helps promote circulation within your body, particularly surrounding your brain, and aids in tension relief.
- Feng Chi / Gallbladder 20 (GB20)
Located behind the lobe of your ear and toward the base of your skull, the Feng Chi point is used in treating fatigue, headaches, neck pain, and shoulder pain. If your neck is particularly stiff, this point can help relieve some of the pressure you are feeling.
- Luo Zhen
On the back of your hand, between your pointer and middle finger, is the Luo Zhen acupuncture point. If using this point, your healer will stimulate the point on the opposite side of your body to the side you are feeling pain. So, if the pain is in the left side of your neck, your healer will activate this point on your right hand. Stimulation of this point will help relieve neck soreness and whiplash.
How Many Acupuncture Sessions Do You Need For Neck Pain?
You will likely feel some relief after just one session, but everyone’s body is different—and neck pain can be persistent! Your healer will develop a customized treatment plan for you and will advise you on how often and for how long you should continue receiving acupuncture for neck pain.
Other TCM Therapies For Neck & Shoulder Pain
As far as neck pain goes, Traditional Chinese Medicine has an array of healing therapies to aid in your body’s relief. Below, find a few other treatment options to be used on their own or in conjunction with each other.
Thanks to Michael Phelps and celebrities like Jennifer Aniston, Justin Bieber, and Gwyneth Paltrow, cupping therapy has become more mainstream (and accessible) in recent years. There are many healing benefits of cupping, and research has shown it to be a useful tool in treating chronic back and neck pain. Still wondering why Michael Phelps loves this healing therapy? Cupping is especially beneficial when it comes to easing stored up tension and relaxing muscles and knots ; it’s great after a tough workout.
This viral wellness tool is another way to kickstart your healing from your own home. Acupressure mats provide similar benefits to acupuncture, without using needles. While one of the most sought after benefits of the acupressure mat is stress relief, our WTHN members and clients swear by these mats for easing back, shoulder, and neck pain, too. They’re also great for relieving headaches and migraines, and increasing your energy, and improving your sleep.
Similar to the way acupuncture stimulates specific points to manage symptoms and treat ailments, ear seeds can be used to activate pressure points in the ear specifically—and as you’ve learned, these points are connected with all different parts of your body. The ears are actually full of pressure points that correspond to a myriad of things like digestion, stress, headaches, fatigue, hormones, and (you guessed it) neck and back pain. Not only do ear seeds have a ton of benefits, but they also double as a trendy accessory.
To apply, use tweezers to place the ear seeds on the specific points outlined in the instructions, and swap them out every three to five days. They will activate the healing response simply by being on the specific pressure point, but you can boost their impact by massaging the seed throughout the day.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, herbs have been used for thousands of years to treat aches, pains, ailments, and illnesses. Our proprietary blend, Head to Toe Relief, can provide instant relief for back, joint, and neck pain—plus it’s safe for long term use. These blends are made with only the highest quality ingredients, and they’ve recently been upgraded into fully sustainable and recyclable packaging, so you can feel even better about your healing.
Wrapping Up: Getting Started with Acupuncture For Neck Pain
Neck pain is becoming more and more prevalent, especially with the amount of time we all spend sitting. Thankfully, there are many alternative healing methods that can help ease that tension—and acupuncture is one of them.