Neck Pain (Wry Neck)
Clinical approach for pain management, with the aim to increase range of neck movement and maintain wellness
General information on neck pain and approaches in managing pain.
(Organ names in Chinese medicine differ from Western medicine's understanding).
Wry neck, also known as torticollis is a common condition that can be severely limiting with a very rapid onset. In Chinese Medicine, wry neck is believed to be caused by external factors such as cold and wind invading the body via the superficial muscular layers, where wind and cold penetrate the body's natural defence, leading to blockages in the channels and possibly the accumulation of dampness, cold by itself causes contraction and wind is the spearhead that unsettles the external defence of the body. Neck pain may also arise due to prolonged static postures, such as sitting in front of a computer or using a phone for an extended period (tech-neck), and may also be attributed to emotional stress and involuntary muscular contracture. Pain may present locally on the back of the neck, down the back to the upper back and shoulders, the sides of the neck, or all of the above, and may even radiate to the arm, hand or contribute to headaches and migraines.
According to Chinese Medicine, the channels and pathways in the body can be affected by external factors such as wind, cold, and dampness which lead to channel blockages and pain. Treatment of wry neck in Chinese Medicine aims to address these blockages and promote the free flow of Qi and blood of the affected channels. Herbal formulas can be used to nourish the blood and invigorate the Qi, while herbal types with different natures and temperatures can be used to expel wind, promote sweating and re-establish the protective layer of deffence we call immunity. These herbal combinations and acupuncture techniques have been shown to be effective in treating neck pain and other musculoskeletal conditions as far back as Chinese Medicine has been around.
Acupuncture is another effective treatment for wry neck, as it can help to reduce pain and improve range of motion. The distant style of acupuncture (TUNG and TAN styles of acupuncture), involve needling points on the arms and legs rather than the local neck region, is particularly safe and effective for treating neck pain. Other treatments such as deep tissue therapy, massage, stretching techniques, cupping, and pressure point therapy, Tui Na are also be used to enhance the treatment's outcome.
In some cases, MET (Muscle Energy Techniques) may be used to address deep spasms in the neck that cannot be reached by massage. These techniques involve placing the neck in various positions while asking the patient to resist ever so gently in the opposite directions. MET and PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) are mostly effective in treating radiating pain to the upper limbs and hands and increasing the limited range of movement and are often used as long as there are no serious rheumatic conditions present.
Prevention of neck pain is always better than cure. Regular stretches and mobilization techniques are encouraged to maintain neck, shoulder and upper back flexibility that help prevent neck tension from arising in the first place.
In conclusion, Chinese Medicine offers a range of effective treatments for wry neck, including herbal formulas and acupuncture, which have been shown to be effective in treating neck pain and other musculoskeletal conditions. Prevention through regular exercise and stretches is key to avoiding neck pain and maintain flexibility.
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The primary objective of Chinese Medicine is to treat the whole person rather than a specific disease or its given name. It is an adjunct to Western medicine, with a distinct focus on identifying the underlying cause within Chinese medical theory and using it's principles in a safe and modern clinical setting.