Did you know that it takes at least 26 different muscles to support the human head? Many of these muscles are tiny stabilizers. Within these muscle are a myriad of nerve pathways. It is no surprise that in such a small space where everything is so tightly packed, all it takes is one thing to malfunction just a little and we have a pain in the neck.
There has been a great increase recently in the number of people dealing with neck pain. Part of the reason why is because as we tilt our head forward to look at our phones, we add anywhere between 10 to 60 extra pounds of weight pulling on all of the muscles of the neck and shoulders, depending on how far we tilt our head . If we look straight down, we might pull the muscles of the neck evenly but we are always slightly turning our head and creating a vector of stress that pulls some muscles tight, while compressing other muscles. The more we do this, the more aggravated some muscles become and nearby nerves become caught in the mess. This can often result in nerve pain: pins and needles, burning, weakness or numbness. Migraines and headaches can also be the result of nerve pain in the neck. Over time, the balance of the neck muscles can change and muscles that usually support your neck become weak and other muscles work harder to compensate.
A 2013 study* out of Australia showed that in patients with neck pain less than six weeks old, 33% of patients healed within 3 months, but 65% of patients still had neck pain after 1 year. Do you want to learn how to stop neck pain or are you going to wait three months and hope you are in that 33%?
What can you do to relieve neck pain?
Whenever a patient complains of neck pain, we immediately want to look at the strength of the shoulders. We suggest having someone observe how you are doing lateral arm raises to see if there is asymmetry between the left and right sides. Do one set of 10 reps for each side. Next do one set for each side of 10 standing lateral arm rotations. Is one side easier to do than the other? Regularly perform these exercises and try to correct the imbalance if there is one as you want to be relatively strong on both sides.
What is important about being equally strong on both sides? Some of the neck muscles connect into the shoulder area which means the shoulders work to support the neck. The neck itself is made up of many stabilizer muscles and they get support from the shoulders. If the shoulder muscles are weak or weak on one side then that will force the neck muscles to work more and could create a pattern of pain.
Our posture holds the biggest key to relieving neck pain. One of the most valuable lessons I learned is from studying Tai Chi and it is best illustrated from this quote:
“The head is held up as if a string is attached to the sky, like a marionette,…the coccyx is held down as if there is a weight on it….the spine is stretched between the two.” –Professor Cheng Man Ching
We have had patients who were able to relieve a significant amount of their neck pain simply by changing their posture.
What else can you do to relieve neck pain?
Here are a few easy exercises that may help.
Static Back exercise: Lay on the floor with your arms out to a 45 degree angle with hands palms up. Support your legs on a block or on the couch so they are bent at a 90 degree angle. The goal of this exercise is to let the shoulders and upper back relax into a more balanced position. Sit in this position for 5-10 minutes to allow yourself to fully relax.
Static Back Reverse Press. Begin in the same position as the previous exercise. Lift your hands off the floor and keep elbows bent and touching the ground. Face your palms toward your feet. Next press your elbows into the ground and squeeze your shoulder blades together and down, hold for a second and release.
How to stop neck pain if the exercises are not enough: Often, people turn turn to massage first. This often helps for a period of time, but the muscle tightness tends to bounce right back and you continue to require massage. With acupuncture, you achieve lasting and effective results that do not require continual maintenance. There are few methods that can compare to the correct application of acupuncture combined with tuina massage and orthopedic movement. At our clinic, we will look at not only the painful area but also the vector of tightness that is causing the issue. When you look at the injury this way you not only relieve the pain, but also work to flush the area with fresh blood so the injury can fully heal and prevent the injury from reappearing in a short time as it does with other therapies.
At Acupuncture Pain and Stress Center you will get more than a typical acupuncture treatment. Our style of acupuncture enhances the effects of needling by combining it with tuina massage, stretching and orthopedic movements to give you quicker and more effective results.
Our goal since 2010 has been to provide Raleigh, NC and its surrounding areas with the highest quality healthcare and compassionate patient-focused services. In addition to completion of a 4 year graduate program, we maintain a strong commitment to continuing education and ongoing research which ensures that we have the resources to provide you with exceptional, results-oriented acupuncture treatments.
If you keep doing exactly what you’ve been doing is your issue going to stay the same or worsen? Do something different and schedule your first appointment to determine if you are a good candidate for treatment. We pride ourselves on personalized treatments to get you results quickly so you can get back to enjoying life and doing the things you love.
Call (919) 260-4104 now, and I will be happy to answer any of your questions and get you booked for an appointment.