Acupuncture for Shoulder & Neck Pain

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Shoulder and neck pain are very common complaints in acupuncture clinics. The most common source of pain is muscular due to stress and bad posture, but some conditions can be more complex due to changes in the shoulder and neck structure. Diagnosis of the source of the pain is very important. For example, pain at the shoulder and arm is very often related to the cervical (neck) spine. If not diagnosed properly, the treatment will be less effective.

This article will present natural ways to treat shoulder and neck pain. If you are suffering from a chronic or acute pain in the neck and shoulder, this article is meant for you to help you find the best natural and effective treatment.

Why Do We Have Neck Pain?

The neck structure carries the weight of the head and it is vital to the connection of the body and head to allow a free movement of air, food, fluids, blood, nerves and more. To protect this vital connection, the structure of the neck is built out of the spine vertebrae, discs, ligaments tendons and muscles.

Stiff Neck, Neck Strain or Neck Sprain

A common cause of both neck and shoulder pain is due to a spasm of the neck muscles and ligaments. Many times, one side will be more dominant with pain and movement impairment. In most cases this is an acute pain than can appear suddenly and disappear after a few days, but in some cases it can become chronic.

The best way is to treat the pain as soon as possible. Acupuncture can relieve this kind of pain in very few treatments and prevent it from becoming a chronic pain (that can last for month or years).

Whiplash Treatment

Whiplash is most commonly associated with car accidents, but it can be related to any impact or blow – like falling to the ground or getting hit on the head and causes your head to jerk forward or backward. This radical movement can risk your spine to break, which can lead to being paralysed or even death. To prevent that, there is a defensive spam mechanism of the neck muscles. Resisting the sudden force stretches and creates micro-tears in the muscles and tendons in the neck. The pain can appear immediately after the accident or few weeks or month after.

In any case of accident or injury it is recommended to go to your physician to eliminate fractures or any other serious damage. For whiplash, acupuncture should also be done as soon as possible to prevent the chronic condition that can last for month.

Cervical Spine Conditions

Cervical herniated disc in the neck, cervical bulged disc, pinched nerve in the neck. All the above and more are related to a condition related to the cervical vertebrae and to the nerves that lies underneath them. These nerves can be touched and inflamed by a bad posture, the pressure from the disc or any arthritic conditions.
When there is damage to the nerve, there can be pain or other sensations, radiating to the neck, shoulder arm and up to the fingers.

These conditions are more severe and painful than a strained neck and whiplash, and are also harder to treat.
A chronic strain/sprain of the neck or whiplash that hasn’t been treated properly, or long-term bad posture, can regress to a damage to the spine and nerve. Acupuncture can be very effective in these cases but it will take at least a few weeks of treatments to heal the neck pain.

Shoulder conditions

Muscular pain and tension of the shoulder

Shoulder pain Natural TreatmentThe most common shoulder pain is related to muscular tension, often due to stress. The pain radiates to the neck and head and creates headaches. See more in the migraine/headache article here.
A chronic condition of muscular tension can lead to other more severe shoulder and neck pain. Acupuncture, massage and exercise can really benefit the shoulder and neck muscle ligaments and tendons.

Shoulder joint condition

These are conditions of the shoulder joints itself and will usually be accompanied by pain and movement restriction. Arthritis of the shoulder, osteo arthritis, rotator cuff conditions, Bursitis of the shoulder and tendonitis of the shoulder. These conditions are more chronic and harder to treat. In acupuncture we will first looks to see if there is any inner imbalance in the body’s organs that has caused the condition. In cases of arthritis, herbal therapy may be added to the acupuncture treatment.

Frozen Shoulder

Frozen Shoulder is a condition than can develop from any of these mentioned conditions. Shoulder pain, inflammation or injury that after a few weeks or months has radically limited the movement of the shoulder. This is considered a more chronic condition. In Chinese Medicine the name for frozen shoulder is “A 50 years old shoulder”.

With Frozen shoulder it is important to increase the mobility range of the shoulder and reduce the pain. The earlier treated, the better the results. Acupuncture is very effective for treating frozen shoulder combined with appropriate exercises.

Shoulder and neck pain can be a complication of a problem of the spine like scoliosis. In these cases, the spine should be treated as well to prevent the recurrence of the injury. In older people where the spine is more rigid and harder to fix, we should consider specially adjusted orthopedic insoles.

Neck and Shoulder Pain in Alternative Medicine

Many people are looking for a natural treatment for shoulder or neck pain when the drug treatment of anti-inflammatories or injections are unsuccessful, and surgery is not a desired option. Over 100,000 Americans die each year because of prescription drugs and living on painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs or steroids is definitely not healthy. Natural medicine is effective to treat the different kinds of neck and shoulder issues, whether from injury or from a degenerative process.

Acupuncture for Treating the Neck and Shoulders

Acupuncture is very efficient for different kinds of inflammation, pain and impaired movement. Acupuncture needles are placed in acupuncture points that open the energetic blocks and bring back the harmonious energy flow to the neck.
Acupuncture creates a better flow of blood and energy to the neck and shoulder, and creates access to the immune system and other body systems to rehabilitate the damaged tissues.

Patients report a sense of flow when the needle is inserted; it is an experience that indicates the opening of an energetic block in the neck or shoulder. In severe conditions it is advisable to have a more frequent therapy and the more there is improvement in the condition it is possible to reduce the frequency of the treatment. Usually at least a few treatments are required to see a more permanent improvement.

Acupuncture Treatment for Neck Pain

• Stiff Neck, Neck strain or Neck Sprain – Usually New conditions will heal in very few sessions. Chronic Condition will show improvement quickly but it may take more time for a complete healing.
• Whiplash – Same as mentioned; the sooner you come for an acupuncture treatment the faster the results will be (of course it is advised you see your physician first). Saying that, many times the pain may arrive a few weeks after the impact. Balance Method acupuncture is very useful; also cupping is very effective for these conditions.
• Cervical Herniated, or bulged disc -These conditions are more severe. The actual structure of the spine is damage therefore it is highly recommended to first get acupuncture treatment until there is no pain. Secondly, to also maintain the health of the cervical spine by doing neck exercises, coming in for maintenance treatment once a month, and trying your best to keep a good posture.
• Arthritis and osteoarthritis – in these cases it is recommended to combine acupuncture with herbal therapy, and the same as the spine problems; maintenance is very important to prevent deterioration.

Acupuncture for Shoulder Pain

• Muscular pain and tension in the shoulder in these cases acupuncture will be

used to alleviate pain from the shoulder as well as to reduce stress in the body-mind. There are some acupuncture protocols that are very effective in reducing stress.
• Shoulder joints conditions – These conditions will usually be accompanied by pain and inflammation. So the acupuncture will be directed at reducing inflammation and pain at first and then to recover the structure of the shoulders that was damaged.
• Frozen Shoulder – Acupuncture will be used first to improve the motion range and later to regenerate the muscles that were underused.

There are cases where surgical intervention is required, such as in cases of a very big or full tear in the ligament or tendon. Even in cases of surgical intervention it is recommended to combine acupuncture in order to accelerate the recovery and healing after the surgery.

Balance Method Acupuncture for Neck and Shoulder Pain

Acupuncture is very effective in alleviating the inflammation and in most cases, pain relief comes at the beginning of the treatment series. In Balance Method acupuncture needles are generally placed in points distal to the problem area. For neck and shoulder pain, we use special points that are located in the hands or feet in order to treat the neck. Points around the knee are needled to treat the shoulder. This allows the patient to be able to move the neck or shoulders during the session and the therapist can check for improvement. Many times during a treatment the patient will experience pain relief and a broader movement range. This actually shows us whether more needles are required or not, and if so, we repeat this until at least a 50% improvement is achieved.

Case Study for Treating Frozen Shoulder with Acupuncture

Danielle, a fifty one year old woman, has been suffering from a frozen shoulder for the past six months. Her movement is limited and sometimes painful when she is getting dressed, driving and on other occasions during the day.
She came to the clinic for Balance Method Acupuncture treatment. In the clinic, when I assessed her mobility, she had difficulty lifting her arm up above her head. The acupuncture I gave her focused on points on her knee which were on the opposite side of the body to her frozen shoulder.

After the needles were placed, Danielle was asked to move her arm gently, lifting her arm up to a point just to where she began to feel pain. Already after insertion of the needles, she could lift her arm 20 cm higher than before – a good sign that energy blockages were releasing. Danielle gradually kept improving. She received fifteen acupuncture treatments, and I gave her special exercises that she did daily. Seven weeks later her shoulder was fully healed.

Recall Healing for Treating Neck and Shoulder Problems

In Recall Healing we work on the subconscious, emotional conflict that causes the creation of the neck and shoulder pain.
According to the Recall Healing method, every disease is connected to an emotional conflict that exists in the person’s subconscious. Recall Healing is done through conversation. A session lasts about an hour and a half and it usually takes between three to six sessions for a complete healing.

The emotional sources of neck and shoulder pain can be many. The causes for the disease can be found in the person’s life cycles, during early childhood and sometimes in the genetic lineage. According to Recall Healing, the conflicts of inflammation or pain in any joint will be different. Often though, joint issues have to do with a conflict around separation or the “joining together” of something or some people in a person’s life. In Recall Healing we use a framework to guide the person to find the specific conflict relevant to them and in their subsconscious.

The emotional causes of neck pain
To find the emotional cause of neck pain we need to have a good diagnosis. Every vertebra of the neck is related to different conflicts. As for stiffness or a strained neck, it can be related to any movement of the neck that caused an emotional pain – see example below. Chronic pain in the neck that is related to the spine can also be related to submission and carrying a heavy physical, mental or emotional load.

Case study of treating a stiff neck with Recall Healing

A 22 year old man, John, came to the clinic with a stiff neck. The pain was described as a 9 out of 10 and he couldn’t turn his head to the right side. Sudden stiffness had began two days earlier.
After talking with John and reviewing the information on the Recall Healing questionnaire that he had filled out prior to the session, I was aware that his father had died suddenly, several years ago. Of course this was hard for the whole family. Just a few days prior to John coming to the clinic, a guest of the family had come to visit him and his family. He was an old friend of John’s father and similar in age and manner.

Whenever John heard a voice of an older man in the house, in his mind he had an automatic response to think for a split second that it was his father, only to look over and then discover it was not him. Of course, John didn’t give this habit much attention, but for his brain, this looking to the side and realizing it wasn’t his father was painful. When his dad’s friend came over, this response was triggered. So, to “help” him, his automatic brain blocked the ability to look to the side, creating a “stiff neck”. When John talked about it with me, he felt emotional and after a few minutes his neck relaxed and mobility started to return. John described his neck as being 80% better and it improved further in the next hour.

Recall Healing for Shoulder Pain

The emotional conflicts that relate to shoulder pain can be many. The symbolism of the shoulder is to push against a heavy door when it is locked. So, one of the main conflicts will be a situation that “I feel trapped.” Different aspects of the shoulder will be connected to different conflicts. Like all muscle, bone, ligament and tendon injuries, the conflict can be related to a movement or exercise done with the joint that was accompanied by devaluation or any other emotional trauma.

Case Study for Shoulder Tendinitis in Recall Healing

Claudia had been suffering from shoulder pain the past 6 months. She was diagnosed by her physician with shoulder tendinitis. He prescribed her with medication that didn’t create any change and she stopped taking the medication to avoid the side effects.

She came to the clinic for recall healing, and we discovered that a year earlier a new manager started at her work place. Her new manager was very hard and tough toward Claudia and her colleagues. Claudia started to feel unhappy in her work, but because she was paid well and felt the experience would be good to have on her resume, she decided to stay in the job. She felt trapped within her workplace with no clear solution.

Claudia knew she was stressed at work and she assumed that long hours on the computer created her injury. When she made the connection between the shoulder and her boss, she became emotional. When this was brought to her awareness, she understood she wasn’t actually trapped but she is free and she made a conscious choice to stay at her work. After the first session the shoulder felt better. Later we found the conflict of being trapped in other places in her life, and life cycles. We brought awareness to these conflicts, allowing them to be released from her brain and nervous system. After five consultations her shoulder pain was gone.

Tui na to Treat Neck and Shoulder Pain

Similarly to acupuncture, Tui na (Chinese medicine massage) also works on the meridians and acupuncture points. The Tui na will usually be local on the neck, shoulder and upper back and arms. Tui na is the Chinese physiotherapy method. Unlike Western physiotherapy or massage, Tui na relates to the Chinese diagnosis and to working along the meridians. It is recommended to combine Tui na with acupuncture.

Shiatsu is also suited for neck and shoulder problems. Shiatsu treatment is slower and more gentle. Some Chinese medicine therapists prefer treating through Shiatsu, which is really a Japanese method, but works according to the same principles of Chinese medicine.

Chiropractic Treatment for Disc Herniation

It is safe to say that treating spinal problems is the chiropractor’s expertise. Chiropractic treatment can be very effective in treating a neck problem like herniated disc, bulging disc and upper back aches in general. The treatment starts with warming up the area and later manipulating the spine in several manners in order to restore the vertebrae into position and reduce the pressure on the disc.

There are different chiropractic approaches; some are gentler and some are more aggressive. The chiropractor doctor knows how to tailor the right treatment to the problem, specific to the patient.
The difficulty in the chiropractic treatment is that the treatment can cause more pain in the beginning because of the spinal manipulation. So, it is important to combine the chiropractic treatment with methods that also work on relaxing the muscles and reducing inflammation, like acupuncture. It is recommended to combine the chiropractic treatment with massage, Tui na or acupuncture, in order to also work on the soft tissues of the muscles, tendons and ligaments. Many chiropractors massage the back or warm up the area with various instruments, to prepare the spine for the chiropractic treatment.

We hope that this article helped you to become more informed about Acupuncture and Recall Healing for neck and shoulder pain, and other alternative treatment methods that can help address your condition. We wish you the best for your health.

Have Questions?

After reading this information, you may have some personal questions for Elad Shalev. Your questions will be addressed during the first consultation, otherwise you can email the clinic or fill out the free online questionnaire.
You will receive a personal answer from Elad Shalev as soon as possible.

Preliminary Questionnaire

Tell us about your condition, so we can give you an assesment

About the Author

Elad Shalev

Elad Shalev

Elad Shalev, R. Ac, Registered acupuncturist in Alberta, is the founder of ReBalance. The name ReBalance comes from a combination of Recall Healing and Balance Method Acupuncture.

After practicing and teaching different types of alternative medicine over the last 20 years, Elad Shalev came to focus his work on the most effective methods from his experience. His search after healing methods that provide fast results in curing the symptoms while healing the root cause of the disease, led him to Balance method Acupuncture and Recall Healing.

The Rebalance acupuncture clinic is located in Edmonton, Canada.

Elad Shalev

Elad Shalev

Elad Shalev, R. Ac, Registered acupuncturist in Alberta, is the founder of ReBalance. The name ReBalance comes from a combination of Recall Healing and Balance Method Acupuncture.

After practicing and teaching different types of alternative medicine over the last 20 years, Elad Shalev came to focus his work on the most effective methods from his experience. His search after healing methods that provide fast results in curing the symptoms while healing the root cause of the disease, led him to Balance method Acupuncture and Recall Healing.

The Rebalance acupuncture clinic is located in Edmonton, Canada.

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