Acupuncture for Neck & Shoulder Pain


Muscles and joints of the neck and shoulder take a beating in the modern world from computer overuse, smartphones, poor posture, stress, and injuries. The good news is that acupuncture can help treat neck and shoulder pain.

Acupuncture helps to deeply relax the muscles in the neck and shoulders, reduce inflammation, and balance the nervous system which will help to reduce pain and stimulate healing. This leads to long term relief even after the treatment course has finished.

At the Marino Clinic, our approach centers on personalized treatments for each person. We will target the pain and stiffness by addressing imbalances within the muscles, connective tissues, and acupuncture channels of the neck and shoulders. The neck and shoulders are thoroughly integrated - neck pain often comes from trigger points on your shoulders - this is why we treat them together.

Causes of Neck Pain

Overwork, stress, and strain are the some of the most frequent causes of chronic neck pain. This is one of the most common areas to store stress- as soon as one feels stress the pain begins.

Common types & symptoms of shoulder problems

Symptoms of shoulder pain are different for the different types of shoulder problems. Some common shoulder ailments include dislocation, arthritis, separation, fracture, frozen shoulder as well as rotator cuff disease.

  1. Dislocation – Shoulder dislocation happens when the ball of the shoulder joint gets out of the socket. This may occur when the arm is pulled strongly or if someone twists his/her shoulder.

  2. Arthritis – Forms of arthritis that affect the shoulder exist in two forms: rheumatoid arthritis which leads to inflammation of the shoulder joint and osteoarthritis which results from the wearing and tearing of the cartilage.

  3. Separation – Shoulder separation results from torn ligaments that join the shoulder blade to the collarbone. Such injuries are usually caused by falling over an outstretched hand.

  4. Fracture – A shoulder fracture refers to a crack on the upper arm bone or the collarbone. Fractures usually result from falls or heavy blows to the shoulder.

  5. Frozen shoulder- A frozen shoulder can occur from prolonged lack of use of the shoulder as a result of protracted pain and a worsening rheumatic condition.

  6. Rotator cuff disease – Rotator cuff diseases that cause shoulder pain include bursitis and tendinitis. In tendinitis, inflammation of the tendons lead to shoulder problems. More on bursitis below.

Common causes of shoulder pain

Most shoulder problems result from the breakdown of the soft tissues around the shoulder region. Constant use of the shoulder can lead to rapid breakdown of the soft tissues as people age. Taxing manual work as well as taking part in sporting activities can also lead to shoulder complications. The pain can either be experienced in a single small spot, or occur in a larger area of the shoulder or even down the arm.

Acupuncture for Neck & Shoulder Pain

Acupuncture is great at cutting off this cycle of stress and pain. Our method to acupuncture considers both your constitutional state of health as well as muscle tension and development of trigger points in the areas.

In acupuncture, Qi, the energy of the body, needs to be strong to support healthy relaxed muscles. If you do not have enough energy to support the muscles, they tense up as a result.  Another cause of pain is Qi stagnation, a slowing of the circulation of the energy.  Normally, the energy of the body flows smoothly. Stagnation may develop from an injury, wear and tear, or chronic stress. This is why it is easy to develop pain during periods of high stress.

Acupuncture treatment for neck and shoulder pain may include a combination of acupuncture with electric stimulation, tui na (Chinese medical massage), and cupping. The therapy is tailored to each patient, and will depend on the root cause, location and quality of the pain, and the state of health of the patient.

If the imbalance is stagnation without weakness, then we use more acupuncture points at the location of pain. These people will often have more active trigger points which are areas of tenderness and stress in the muscle.

We will also select acupuncture points along the affected acupuncture channel that are farther away from the pain. This technique increases circulation in the acupuncture channels, which will reduce pain and speed healing.

When the root cause of the shoulder pain is an underlying weakness in the body’s energy, then less acupuncture points on the neck and shoulder will be used. These acupuncture points will focus on increasing the amount of energy in the body.

Treating the Whole Person

One of the great things about acupuncture is that it addresses the whole person, relaxing both the mind and body. Disrupting the cycle of stress is important to reduce reoccurring pain. The muscles are interconnected with fascia and other connective tissue. Tension from one area can create problems in other muscles. Often, trying to target and treat only the location of the pain does not relieve the tension in the surrounding muscle groups.

There is an old adage in acupuncture that tension even in the toes can affect the whole body. This is particularly true when treating pain in the neck and shoulders. So we have to be mindful of not just the area at issue but the whole person.


Clinical Study on Acupuncture for Neck & Jaw Pain

Clinical Study

Neck Pain Reduced by Acupuncture

By: Sam Gaines, Staff Writer

A Norwegian study published in the June 2004 issue of Pain found that people who received acupuncture reported less pain three years later than people with similar pain who received a dummy treatment.

Researchers at the University of Oslo treated 12 female office workers who reported chronic neck and shoulder pain with 10 sessions of standard acupuncture and acupressure. A second group of 12 workers received a sham treatment, in which acupuncture needles were placed in the incorrect locations.

The real acupuncture group reported a 70 percent decrease in pain intensity during treatment, and after three years, reported pain intensity was still lessened by half. The control group reported only a slight dip during treatment, but even greater pain than before treatment three years later.

Source: New York Times, 2004