Muscle strain or soft tissue sprain is one of the most common causes of a painful and stiff neck, also known as Cervical spondylosis (CS). Located at the back and side of the neck, the levator scapulae muscle attaches the neck’s cervical spine with the shoulder and is innervated by the third and fourth cervical nerves (C3, C4). Due to its location, this muscle is more susceptible to injury and may be strained throughout the course of many common, everyday activities such as sleeping with the neck in an awkward position or being in a slouching position with poor ergonomics while using the computer. Additionally, continuous downward viewing on a cell phone (as in texting) for prolonged periods may result in this condition.
Common causes of neck pain & stiffness can include the following:
- Muscle strains – overuse activities, which include too many hours hunched over your computer screen or smartphone or holding the neck in an uncomfortable position, such as cradling a phone for a prolonged period of time.
- Injuries– traumatic falls or sudden impact causing the head to be pushed to the side as in sports injuries.
- Excessive Stress– experiencing chronic stress and anxiety can lead to pain and stiffness of the neck.
- Structural conditions –these conditions are typically chronic issues and symptoms of pain and stiffness can vary in intensity over time: cervical degenerative joint disease, cervical intervertebral disc herniation, or cervical osteoarthritis.
How Acupuncture Can Help
Acupuncture has been shown to be a leading intervention in the treatment and prevention of neck pain otherwise known as Cervical spondylosis (CS) and where many patients see a dramatic decrease in pain intensity within their first treatment. Range of motion of the cervical spine is gradually restored as well. CS can manifest due to unspecified changes of the muscles, tendons, joints and bones of the neck as well as the shoulder (1). Occasionally, some patients may experience numbness and radicular pain travelling down to the arms and fingers. For these cases, treatment involves the insertion of fine, very thin acupuncture needles into specific points along the body’s Meridians/Channels in order to effectively reset tense and fatigued muscles. The objective is to regain a state of reduced pain sensation and inflammation to that specific muscle or muscle group. Acupuncture therapy restores optimal blood flow and microcirculation to the affected area, which in turn, promotes nourishment to the neck muscles and their associated tendons and ligaments to prevent further tendency to injuries, taxation and strain.
What to Expect from your Treatment?
Acupuncture as part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is increasingly being used to treat various types of musculoskeletal pain syndromes. Whether an acute or chronic neck pain issue, TCM views it as being caused by a blockage of well oxygenated blood flow to the affected area (traditionally referred to as “Qi and blood stagnation”) which leaves the body tissues undernourished and essentially depleted of much needed nutrients in order to function and perform. Additionally, cellular and metabolic waste products are not effectively carried out and eliminated. Neck pain and stiffness conditions are treated with a variety of TCM modalities such as acupuncture along with Chinese herbal formulas, Tuina (a form of Chinese medical massage), cupping, guasha and electrical stimulation.