What a pain in the neck! My acupuncture teacher, Dr. Richard Tan, says treating neck pain is a pain in the neck because there are so many meridians in the neck. The style of acupuncture that we practice, balance method, works like this: find the “sick” meridian(s) first. Find the meridians that balance the sick one(s), and put needles in a mirror-imaged location. For example, if you have pain on the Gall Bladder meridian, then the San Jiao, Liver, and Heart meridians balance; and the mirror image for the neck could be the wrist, ankle, or the end of the first phalangeal joint.
So if there are 12 meridians with pain, that’s a lot of balancing work to do! A lot of needles.
Here’s a question I get a lot: “Do you think it’s my pillow causing my neck pain?”
When a client askes a question, it sometimes takes me time to answer because I really like to think about it. The more I think about pillows causing neck pain, I think the answer is “no.” Here’s why.
Have you ever seen a baby sleep in the car? With their head all crooked and craned in one direction. It may be almost completely folded over onto their chest! I used to worry when I saw my son sleeping that way, even though it never seemed to bother him.
So why can a baby sleep like that and not cry about neck pain, but a grown-up in a mostly proper sleeping position is hurting? It’s the blood flow. Children have almost perfect blood flow. They fall down and cry for a second and then they’re better. The get a scrape on their face and it’s almost healed the next day. Their blood cells are constantly turning over. Way faster than in an adult.
This is the whole basis of Chinese medicine. The blood flow. If you can improve blood circulation to all parts of your body, that area will function better and hurt less. Ideally, you should be able to sleep on any pillow you want and sleep fine. Of course, ideally is not necessarily reality.
My favorite treatments for neck pain are
1. Hanging upside down. I do this by doing a standing forward bend. Stand up, with a slight bend at your knees, and keeping your spine straight, bend over and let your upper body just hang there. Shake your head “yes” and “no.” Let your head and neck release with the pull of gravity. Do some yoga.
2. Chiropractic adjustment. Sometimes just getting the bones in alignment, along with relaxing the muscles through massage or acupuncture, makes a world of difference. Just be sure to see a good chiro! (FYI – Christie Mahaffey, DC, is now working at the Natural Health Center!)
The more flexible your neck is, the less it will hurt.
Now you: what has helped you with your neck pain?