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  • Writer's pictureAku Energija

Acupuncture and TCM for neck and shoulder pain

Neck pain, or cervicalgia, can last from days to years, depending on the cause. Common causes include physical strain, poor posture, mental stress, osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis, herniated disk, pinched nerve and other health conditions. Acupuncture and other TCM treatments for neck pain and other musculoskeletal disorders have been shown to be highly effective for relief of pain and stiff neck.

Acupuncture Show Good Effects For Neck Pain

Emerging evidence suggests that acupuncture for neck pain may be effective.

  • A 2021 paper [1] highlights prior research on acupuncture as well as other complementary therapies, such as dry needling and cupping. It concluded that all three likely offer benefits.

  • There is also evidence that acupuncture can help reduce stress levels, which might play a role in reducing neck pain in some individuals. [2]

  • A 2020 meta-analysis found moderate evidence to support the use of acupuncture for neck pain. The analysis included six randomized controlled trials, all of which reported a reduction in neck pain compared to a placebo and no treatment. [3]

How Acupuncture Is Applied for Neck Pain and Stiffness

Acupuncture treatments can vary widely based on the practitioner’s methods and treatment strategy. In most cases, the acupuncturist starts by asking about the patient’s symptoms, diet, and daily routine, which may give clues about the most effective points on the body to place the needles.

Even when symptoms of pain and stiffness are only in the neck area, the needles may be placed in other areas of the body in addition to the neck. Depending on treatment method, the patient might be asked to lie on the stomach, back, or sit in a reclined position.

It is common for an acupuncture treatment session to last somewhere between 15 and 30 minutes. Relaxing music might be played to help keep the environment calm and soothing. After the treatment is completed, the thin needles are removed and disposed.

The recommended duration and frequency of acupuncture sessions may depend on how long the neck pain and stiffness have already lasted, as well as the severity of symptoms. Ultimately, the decision is up to the patient as to whether the perceived benefits of the acupuncture treatments are worth continuing.

Acupuncture with Moxibustion and Herbal Medicine For A Holistic Neck Pain Treatment

One of the most efficient TCM treatments for neck stiffness is the combination of acupuncture and moxibustion. Moxibustion itself is also convenient for treating a wide variety of conditions. It involves the burning of the dried mugwort (moxa) on the skin’s surface, targeting the specific acupoints. Like acupuncture, it aims at re-establishing the flow of vital energy while encouraging the body to produce natural painkillers. The combination of acupuncture and moxa is useful for eliminating weakness, and fatigue due to the neck pain. This method is also used for treating other types of pain like sciatica, frozen shoulder, tendonitis, and fibromyalgia.

Specific Chinese herbal formulae can be useful for alleviating the symptoms of the sore neck. They come in both oral and topical formulations, and they are excellent for treating degenerative disc disorders and other orthopedic problems you may be facing.

A professional Chinese herbalist will recommend a unique herbal formula based on your condition. It’s not recommended to take herbal remedies on your own since some of them can cause side effects. Consult your herbalist before taking any action.

Self Help Tips for Neck Pain Relief

Besides from acupuncture treatment, you can also get some stiff neck relief by improving your posture, sleeping position and by practicing neck pain exercises. Here are some neck pain remedies you can achieve through self care at home.

Improve Your Posture

The muscles of the neck must work in tandem to hold the head steady as it bends and turns in all directions. Nowadays people look down their phones or electronic devices for hours at a time. When the head is bent forward at a 45 degree angle, the strain of the neck and shoulder muscles carrying the weight is increased dramatically. You may not be able to get away from this problem entirely, but becoming aware of the way you sit, stand, and tilt your head downward can help improve the situation. Set up your desk with the best ergonomics you can manage, ensuring that your screen is level with your eyes. Try holding your phone higher when scrolling. Take breaks often; look up, and gently stretch the neck to release tension.

Exercise to Stretch Neck Muscles and Strengthen the Core Muscles

Flex your neck to point of gentle tension in each direction: first bending the head all the way down and forward, then all the way back (not so far as to cause discomfort), then tilting to the right side and the left side. Hold in each position for five breaths. This will help stretch the neck muscles and improve your range of motion. After you’ve been sitting at your desk for a while, take and break, stand up, clasp your hands behind your back and look over each shoulder toward your heel.

Combine other forms of exercise like Yoga, TaiChi, Ba Duan Jin to improve your muscles coordination and the power of your core muscles. This would help with correcting posture and achieve better biomechanics of movement, thus less likely to hurt the muscles or soft tissues.

Best Way to Sleep with Neck Pain

The correct positioning of the head and neck during your night’s sleep is key to preventing neck pain. It’s best to sleep either on your back or side. Do not sleeping on your belly as it forces your head to turn one way and cause long term suppression to the neck soft tissues.

The most important thing is to make sure that the neck is supported by your pillow. People often prop the head up too high on multiple pillows. If you sleep on your back, you might want to use a roll-shaped cushion under your neck and then a flatter pillow under your head. Pillows that conform to the shape of the neck and head can work well for side sleepers; you might choose a feather or buckwheat-filled pillow, or one made of memory foam. Aside from positioning, the ability to get a good night’s rest is vital for healing and preventing all types of musculoskeletal pain and inflammation. If you are having trouble sleeping, your acupuncturist may help with that at the same time as treating neck pain.


  1. Berger AA, Liu Y, Mosel L, Champagne KA, Ruoff MT, Cornett EM, Kaye AD, Imani F, Shakeri A, Varrassi G, Viswanath O, Urits I. Efficacy of Dry Needling and Acupuncture in the Treatment of Neck Pain. Anesth Pain Med. 2021 Apr 3;11(2):e113627. doi: 10.5812/aapm.113627. PMID: 34336626; PMCID: PMC8314077.

  2. Sparrow K, Golianu B. Does acupuncture reduce stress over time? A clinical heart rate variability study in hypertensive patients. Med Acupunct. 2014; 26(5):286-294.

  3. Arwa M. Farag, Alberto Malacarne, Sarah E. Pagni, George E. Maloney, The effectiveness of acupuncture in the management of persistent regional myofascial head and neck pain: A systematic review and meta-analysis, Complementary Therapies in Medicine, Volume 49, 2020,


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