This traditional Chinese technique uses thin needles that are inserted into the body at specific spots called acupoints. It is based on the belief that blocked chi, or energy, causes pain and that stimulating some of our more than 300 acupoints, each believed to affect a specific body part or organ, can unblock energy and relieve pain. 

A number of people who use acupuncture for chronic pain report benefits. One possible reason for the benefits of acupuncture: Studies show that it causes us to release those feel-good endorphins, which suppresses pain. For back and neck pain, acupuncture is safe as long as sterile needles, such as single-use disposables, are used by a trained practitioner.

Treats 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 recurring 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.

Causes of Neck, Shoulder and Back Pain

The causes of neck and shoulder pain and stiffness are many and can range from silly reasons like sleeping in a wrong posture to serious ones like arthritis and meningitis which can leave us with a sore and painful neck for several days. 

Some of the common causes of neck pain are:      

  • Poor Sitting Posture
  • Poor sleeping posture
  • Muscle Strain
  • Overexertion
  • Sprain

The possible common causes of back pain in today's lifestyle are:

  • Lack of exercise 
  • Incorrect  posture 
  • Long hours of sitting 
  • Stress 
  • Overweight 
  • Bad dietary habits 
  • Improper exercise without proper guidance 
  • Spasms of back muscles and soft tissues

Some serious causes of neck, back and shoulder pain include:

  • Meningitis - Inflammation of meninges around the brain
  • Arthritis - Cervical spondylitis and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Disc prolapse
  • Degeneration of joints & bones
  • Osteoporosis

Acupuncture Treatments

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.

Acupoints are chosen both at the location of the pain and along the affected acupuncture channel that is 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 acupoints will focus on increasing the amount of energy in the body.

Tui Na

Tui Na, or Chinese medical massage, is wonderful for the treatment of shoulder pain. One of the most powerful techniques in Tui Na is the rolling technique. This technique uses the back of the hand to roll over the muscles. Rolling technique is both soft and strong, allowing it to get deep into the muscle and help with relaxation. Because it is smooth, the rolling technique allows the use of strength while avoiding resistance within the muscle.

Best Acupressure Regions to Relieve Neck and Shoulder Pains:

· Shoulder Well - This point is located on the shoulder muscle, halfway between the base of the neck and the end of the shoulder muscle. Stimulating this point helps in relieving stiffness of neck and shoulder. It also helps in relieving back pain.

· Completion Bone - This point is located on the occipital ridge, in the depression behind the ear in the SCM muscle. Stimulating this point helps in relieving headache, neck pain and dizziness.  

· Heaven’s Pillar - This point is located on the occipital ridge, just at the side of where the spine enters the skull in the tendon. Stimulating this point helps in relieving neck pains, numbness and stiffness in the neck.  

· Union Valley - This point is located in the web between the thumb and the index finger. Stimulating this point helps in reducing tension and uneasiness in the neck and shoulders. Stimulating this point is also a great way of relieving stress and anxiety.

To sustain the benefits of Acupuncture, it is recommended to:  

  • Practice a  correct sitting posture, when sitting for long hours. It is advisable to get up from the desk and move around every 30 minutes. 
  • Regular exercise practice like yoga, tai chi or any other recommended exercise by the practitioner. Prevent going out in cold weathers without adequate clothing. Avoid strenuous and jerky movements. 
  • Stress management.

Effectiveness of Acupuncture in Chronic Pains

The latest studies have found that treatment with acupuncture works better than the usual methods like over-the-counter or prescription pain medications for dealing with chronic pain.