My neck and top of shoulder area is always tight and sometimes there is a dull ache going down my arm and up into my neck, this sometimes gives me headaches, at this stage I’m fed up with taking painkillers, what can I do?
There are two types of neck pain acute and chronic, the acute type always nearly comes around this time of year when people see a little sunshine and suddenly expose their necks to the cold air, this comes about because in spring time even though the sun’s rays are warm the air is still very cold, so the sun opens the pores and the cold air penetrates the muscles around the neck causing sudden stiffness or creaks in the neck with the person unable to turn their head properly, this is most noticeable whilst driving the car. The old saying never shed a clout till May is out should be adhered to.
The chronic type of neck pain can come from a build up of stress in your body’s energy field. Even if this area was injured stress can still be responsible, for instance if a person had stress for a long period of time this tension can manifest itself as tightness in certain muscles especially the back and shoulder area, then if a person physically exerts themselves the muscles which are already in a state of tension are now more easily pulled and injury occurs. In about 90% of all shoulder neck problems stress is the underlying cause. This stress can come from work; relationships or just the hectic way of life that a lot of people take for granted or think is normal nowadays. The age-old belief that life should be hard is very prevalent today. With this ideal people are driving themselves harder and harder all the time, it is only when stress presents itself in the form of pain that people suddenly take notice. Pain is the only way your body can communicate with you to try to slow you down. But despite this people always try to just find a physical cause for their pain and find it hard to accept that it might be stress, they are not willing to accept this because to do so might mean that they have to face issues and maybe change their lifestyle in some way. Sometimes in a strange way illness can give people a much-needed break from their hectic lifestyles. In treating any pain or disease we utilise a very important principle in Chinese medicine known as the ben and the biao. So what does this mean? Simply put the ben means to treat the root cause of the pain or illness and the biao means to treat the symptom or the manifestation, which in this case is the tight neck/shoulder area. So which do we treat first the ben or the biao. In this case we treat the biao with a combination of acupuncture, cupping and heat to relieve the pain first and then once the pain has subsided by say 60-70 per cent which could take up to 3-4 treatments or more we then proceed to treat the ben. Using this treatment plan will ensure that the root cause of the problem will be taken care of so that a lasting cure can be achieved. So how do we treat the ben, well firstly a detailed medical history will be taken, things like sleeping patterns, bowel movement, frequency of headaches (if any), energy levels, appetite, moods etc. Then the tongue and pulse would be examined.
To sum up then the stress (the ben) would usually be treated with a combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbs and the biao with acupuncture and cupping. In my own practice neck and shoulder problems normally respond quite well and fast to treatment especially using the ben and biao principles.