Have you ever experienced the stiff neck after getting up from the bed? The entire neck feels freeze with movement restriction, maybe headache and muscle tenderness as well. Sometimes it lasts around 3-4 days and gets recovered by itself, but sometimes it can last for over a month. Or this situation develops into a recurrent one, keeping bothering your daily life: especially with long-term work facing the computer, or influencing your training.
Mr. H first came to me asking for a cupping session for his stiff neck. He had been suffering from this typical neck stiffness over a week, which forced him to stop his daily weight training. He went to massage, but the pain didn’t relief this time. When I was checking his neck and upper back area, I found some tendon nots and the neck-shoulder area was very tight. He would feel a dragging force that restricted his movements on head and neck for both sides. I explained the cause of this stiffness from a Chinese medicine angle and suggested him to do acupuncture with cupping together.
After the first session with the treatments, Mr.H was free from the restriction on his neck with some remaining pain around neck and upper back area. He reflected that the entire situation was 80% relieved after the first session which surprised me as well. We continued with 2-3 more weekly sessions, and his stiff neck was fully recovered. Based on Mr. H’s need of continuing his training, we adjusted the treatment goal to focus more on maintenance; and the treatment frequency changed to every 2-3 weeks.
Explaining stiff neck in Chinese medicine
We’ve found that there are 3 major causes of stiff neck:
- Improper postures (sleeping posture, working posture, or over fatigue);
- Impact of wind-cold (direct contact with cold wind from AC, forget to dry up immediately after caught in the rain);
- Deficiency in liver and kidney (these two organs supply the energy of the soft tissues).
ONE important reminder: it is better to avoid directive stimulus on the affected areas during the acute states of the stiffness. Usually, there will be some muscle spasm during the acute state. Directive stimulus may increase the spasm, causing more pain. Special care and treatment techniques are required for this situation. Like: acupuncture with movements, flashing cupping.
Special acupuncture technique: acupuncture with movements
Unlike the normal acupuncture which requires the patients to stay still, it is a technique that involves movements during the acupuncture treatment. I often use it to treat movement restriction, or the pain related to certain movements.
During the first session with Mr. H, I didn’t apply any needles on the stiff areas. Instead, I used most distal acupoints on his hands and arms. With the special angle (nearly 0°) to insert the needles, the patient is able to do gentle movements with the needles. Acupuncture induced pain-relieving effect, plus the movement to enhance the energy flow to the affected area, muscle and other soft tissue can finally relaxed.
*Disclaimer: treatment effect and treatment course vary with each individual.