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Common Causes of Neck Pain: Neck Pain Relief Through Acupuncture

Updated: May 3

Experiencing neck pain is a common health complaint that many of us face at some point. The burden of the head carried by the complex structure of the cervical spine and over 20 neck muscles, extending from the base of your skull and jaw down to your shoulder blades and collarbone, leaves the neck prone to injury and strain, leading to discomfort and restricted movement.

However, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), with acupuncture at its forefront, offers a holistic and time-tested approach to alleviating neck pain.

The Anatomy of Neck Pain: Recognizing the Symptoms

Anatomy of the neck gif

The neck, or cervical spine, comprises vertebrae that start from the upper torso to the base of the skull. The cervical spine's functionality is supported by muscles, ligaments, and bones that allow for motion and strength. Neck pain can manifest as stiffness, sharp pain, or even a dull ache. Symptoms often include difficulty in moving the neck, especially when trying to turn the head to the side, pain that radiates down the arms or shoulders, and sometimes a headache, tingling, or numbness.

Identifying Common Causes of Neck Pain

neck pain

  • Muscle Tension and Strain: This is perhaps the most common cause of neck pain. It can be brought about by activities such as prolonged sitting at a desk, awkward sleeping positions, or even stress which can cause muscles to tighten and contract.

  • Injury: The neck is particularly vulnerable to injury, especially in accidents such as falls or car crashes where the muscles and ligaments of the neck are forced to move outside their normal range.

  • Wear and Tear: Osteoarthritis is a common age-related condition that affects the neck. The cartilage between the vertebrae deteriorates, and bone spurs may form, causing pain.

  • Nerve Compression: Herniated discs or bone spurs can press on the nerves branching out from the spinal cord, causing neck pain that may extend into the extremities.

  • Diseases: Certain diseases may result in neck pain, such as rheumatoid arthritis, meningitis, or cancer.

A Holistic Approach to Neck Pain

TCM views neck pain as a symptom of an underlying problem related to the flow of Qi (energy) and blood within the body. According to TCM, pain is often a signal that there is an obstruction in the flow of these vital energies, which can result from emotional stress, environmental factors such as wind and cold, or injury.

  • Wind-Cold Invasion: TCM often ascribes neck pain to an invasion of wind and cold, especially at the nape of the neck. This leads to stiffness and immobility, resembling symptoms of torticollis, where a draft or an awkward position while sleeping causes the neck muscles to contract.

  • Qi and Blood Stagnation: The belief here is that when Qi and blood do not flow freely, it can lead to stagnation, which contributes to pain and stiffness. This could be the result of emotional stress or physical trauma.

  • Painful Obstruction Syndrome (Bi Syndrome): TCM also identifies a condition known as Bi Syndrome, caused by pathogenic factors like wind, dampness, or cold invading the body, and causing joint pain. In the neck, it particularly affects the articulation of the vertebrae and the muscles.

TCM and Acupuncture Points for Neck Pain

TCM uses a variety of approaches to treat neck pain, with acupuncture being one of the primary modalities. Specific acupoints are targeted to help alleviate pain and restore the smooth flow of Qi and blood in the affected area.

  • LUOZHEN (M-UE-24): Known as a specific point for treating a stiff neck, found on the back of the hand, proximal to the metacarpophalangeal (MCP) joints. Luo Zhen (落枕) translates into "fall off pillow" and as the name suggests, it is an effective point for neck stiffness or pain due to an awkward sleeping position.

  • GB41,SJ3, SI3, ST43, BL65: Different combinations of these points are utilized to treat neck stiffness limiting the range of motion and neck pain caused by movements.

  • SI2, SI5, SJ2, SJ6, ST41, GB38, BL60, BL66: Different combinations of these points are utilized to treat constant neck pain or stiffness even without the movement.

  • Other Points: GB40, DU14, UB10, SI14, GB39, LU7, SI7, HUATUOJIAJI (M-BW-35): These points can be utilized to treat disorders of the neck.

Integrating TCM in Modern Healthcare for Neck Pain

Western medicine may often employ pain medications, physical therapy, or in severe cases, surgery, to address neck pain. In contrast, TCM offers non-invasive remedies. These can be combined with modern healthcare practices to create a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses not only the symptoms but also the underlying cause of the pain.


For those afflicted by the common yet challenging discomfort of neck pain, acupuncture offers a gentle, natural pathway to relief. Whether it's through acupuncture, herbal remedies, or a combination of modalities, TCM offers valuable tools for managing and alleviating neck pain, encouraging a harmonious flow of energies within the body for overall health and well-being.


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