Posts Tagged ‘neck pain’
When I think about the most common ailments my patients are battling, pain is definitely at the top of the list. Whether it’s migraines, neck pain, joint stiffness, arthritis or lower back pain, dealing with pain is an everyday occurrence for many.
Pain is – unfortunately – extremely common. In fact, a national NIH survey found that more than 25% of U.S. adults had experienced some sort of pain lasting more than a day. Often, an aspirin, acetaminophen or other over-the-counter pain medication can keep the aches at bay, but for serious pain, stronger medications can be prescribed. To avoid these medications’ risk of side effects or addiction and because they are looking for an alternative approach, more and more people are turning to acupuncture for pain treatment.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) analysis recently showed that pain or musculoskeletal complaints accounted for 7 of the top 10 conditions for which people use acupuncture. The most common condition was back pain, followed by joint pain, neck pain, severe headaches and recurring pain.
And…there’s an increasing body of scientific evidence showing that acupuncture is working.
A 2010 study was able to shed some light on exactly how acupuncture helps relieve pain – the study looked at mice and found that the insertion of an acupuncture needle activated pain-suppressing receptors near the insertion site. It also showed that the insertion and movement of the acupuncture needles released adenosine, a naturally occurring compound that boosts the response of the receptors, increasing pain relief.
Other clinical studies have showed promising results for acupuncture for pain in: lower back pain, menstrual cramps, fibromyalgia, headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome, neck pain and tennis elbow.
In short, using acupuncture for pain is on the rise and I am seeing more and more patients benefit from this approach. If you are coping with pain, a licensed acupuncturist may be able to help.
The vast majority of patients that come to see me are coming in for one reason – chronic pain.
Chronic pain is an increasingly common ailment or condition and most often patients are suffering from lower back pain, general joint or arthritis pain or neck pain. It’s estimated that 26% of Americans suffer from chronic pain, compared to 7% that have diabetes, 6% with heart disease and less than 2% diagnosed with cancer. For those living with chronic pain, neck pain is the third most common cause, according to a survey conducted by the National Institute of Health Statistics.
There are many causes for neck pain. The Mayo Clinic has some great online resources and information about what can lead to neck pain, including muscle strains, worn joints, nerve compression, injuries and diseases.
Physicians and researchers have also been conducting studies to test the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating chronic neck pain. The results have been compelling. A 2001 study showed that acupuncture was effective in relieving neck pain and improving range of motion. In a 2004 study, the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating chronic neck pain was evaluated in 153 patients. Nearly 70% of those patients had a successful outcome from acupuncture, reporting an improvement in pain of at least 50%.
In addition to acupuncture, people have been using Traditional Chinese Medicine – or TCM – and herbal remedies to successfully treat chronic neck pain for thousands of years. One of these remedies, Notopterygium Root, is also known as qiang huo in Chinese pinyin. Qiang huo has long been used in Chinese herbal formulas because it specifically “homes” to the upper spine and neck, opening the area and allowing for release of constraint and greater freedom of movement.
Qiang huo is also considered a foundational herb in the Chinese medicine specialty of Wai Ke. Wai Ke’s focus on external medicine also employs the use of kudzu, which is also known as ge gen. Ge gen is another popular choice in Chinese herbal medicine formulas because is provides directionality in a formula to the upper spine and neck area. Ge gen is very effective for neck pain and has been proven effective in a Yale study for relieving cluster headaches. Both qiang huo and ge gen are known to reduce inflammation and also work as analgesics to reduce neck pain.
Herbal remedies that many people may be familiar with are menthol and camphor – if you’ve ever used Ben Gay or IcyHot, you’ve used these key ingredients. Well, they can also be used on their own as an herbal remedy and are rubbed into the skin to increase blood flow and produce a warm or cool feeling that soothes muscles and eases aches.
So, while having chronic neck pain can be…well, a pain in the neck, acupuncture can make a significant difference and traditional Chinese medicine offers a wide range of herbal treatments that can reduce inflammation and pain. A licensed acupuncturist or practitioner of TCM can help develop a plan that is customized for you and eases that ache.
Warmer Weather Means Outdoor Activities…It Also Means Strained Muscles, Stiff Necks and Sore Backs — How Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine Tackles the PainThursday, June 23rd, 2011
Ahhh…glorious weather. Jogs in the park. Strolls through the neighborhood. Gardening in the yard. Summer means outdoor activities. It also means the strained muscles, stiff necks and sore backs that accompany all that moving around. While many people will take two painkillers and call their doctor in the morning if pain persists, studies show that acupuncture can be just as, if not more, effective at easing the pain.
The University of Maryland Medical Center cites a recent study that found that acupuncture is an alternative treatment that helped improve feelings of soreness. Additionally, herbs like Turmeric, White Willow and Horse Chestnut have been shown to help lessen the pain of common strains and sprains.
Another study showed that electroacupuncture had an analgesic effect in rats with ankle sprains. Livestrong.com offers up some advice for easing the pain of pulled muscles in the legs, including acupuncture treatments.
The important thing is to understand the cause of the strain and the pain and to protect yourself by stretching and not straining your muscles. By working closely with patients, a Chinese Medicine expert can help customize herbal treatments and acupuncture regimens to ensure that they are strong and well-conditioned, lessening the chances of strains and sprains.
So, go, conquer the outdoors and enjoy the glorious weather…just stretch first!
Ligusticum (chuan xiong) is a popular herb in Chinese medicine. While the root and rhizomes have therapeutic properties, ligusticum is also used for flavoring and fragrance due to its pungent and warm qualities. Ligusticum’s properties are well suited for autumn and ailments that typically occur during the change of seasons.
Ligusticum is featured is the formula chuan xiong cha tiao san or “ligusticum chuan xiong powder to be taken with green tea”. The Chinese Medicine Materia Medica specifies this formula for exterior disorders with head and neck symptoms. Exterior disorders affect the most yang aspects of the body. In the perspective of Chinese medicine, the head and neck are located furthest from the earth and therefore the most yang. Wind-heat or wind-cold disorders often manifest in the head and neck. The common symptom profile is headache with chills and fever, dizziness, and nasal congestion.
From a western medical slant, chuan xiong cha tiao san can be seen as a formula that treats conditions such as upper respiratory infection, migraine headache, tension headache, neurogenic headache and acute and chronic sinusitis. Ligusticum helps to promote healthy bloodflow and relieve pain. Many Chinese medicine practitioners also prescribe Ligusticum as part of an individualized formula to treat irregular menses, migraine headache and infertility.