5 Myths Surrounding Neck Pain
Neck pain affects up to 50% of the world’s population, according to research completed by the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP). The IASP study also found that chronic neck pain, lasting over 3 months, will afflict 15% of the population at any given time. The truth is, if you have neck pain, or any chronic pain, you are not alone. Here is some more truth, just like there are many myths touted as expert fitness advice from your local gym junkie, there are many myths surrounding neck pain. We at Lakewood Ranch Acupuncture and Wellness are going to dispel some of these myths and shed some light on the subject!
Myth #1: The site is the source.
This myth infers that if one suffers from neck pain, obviously they did something inappropriate with their neck. This is not always the case! Sure, if you watch TV all day with your head twisted or if you get rear ended in your car, damage to the neck or cervical spine can definitely be the cause of pain symptoms. However, an expert can differentiate the pathophysiology of neck pain. In physical therapy, there is a saying that goes like this, “The site may NOT be the source.” This phrase infers the old adage, “weakest link in the chain breaks first.” The truth is there are many ways up the mountain, and there are many ways to experience neck pain.
We are comprised of many networks of kinetic chains, that is, muscle groups and connective tissues linked together via the myofascial matrix that helps keep us all put together. For example, one may have instability in their ankles as they stand and ambulate (walk about). This instability causes slight malfunction at the knee joint. The pelvis can get tilted off keel which affects the spinal column and works up to the neck where the person compensates by adopting a new pattern of carrying the head upon the body. If the neck ultimately takes most of the burden from a deleterious walking gait, voila, neck pain. Much of the time, neck pain and pain in general comes from chronic patterns of unhealthy posture and movement. It’s cumulative damage, not acute injury. Further, acute injury could simply be the “straw that broke the camel’s back” from years of cumulative damage from microtraumas.
Myth #2: Local treatment is the most effective form of treatment.
Going hand in hand with the first myth, if the neck is NOT the source of the pain treating the neck will only mask the pain. The root cause of why pain is being signaled must be treated directly. Again, seek a healthcare professional. Seriously, this is why we went through years of fancy book learning and thousands of hours of clinical and didactic training before we even entered the workforce as medical practitioners.
In many instances, especially acute conditions, treating the site of the pain may only exacerbate symptoms. Distal treatment, that is treatment away from the site of the pain, is a very effective form of therapy. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has outlined the numerous energy channels that run throughout the body. If one has neck pain and seeks a TCM approach, do not be surprised if you end up being treated at your wrist or ankles. Though beyond the scope of this article, know that the channels run up and down the body, from deep to superficial. Recall the kinetic chains mentioned earlier, we learned a song as children … “the knee bone’s connected to the leg bone” and so on and so forth. Well that is true of Western medicine’s kinetic chain concept, and the ancient Daoist’s concept of Acupuncture channels.
Myth #3: Cold is better than heat.
Tom Bisio, a world renowned medical arts and martial arts practitioner, brings to us an old Chinese saying … “Ice is for dead people.” Ever heard the acronym R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation)? Well it was coined by Dr. Gabe Mirkin back in 1978 when he wrote Sportsmedicine Book. Guess what? Even Dr. Mirkin recanted his R.I.C.E. treatment protocol! Why? The Chinese physicians of old told us thousands of years ago that cold congeals and leads to stagnation of energy. The inflammation buzzword gets thrown around a whole bunch, while acute inflammation is actually part of the healing process!
TCM has a full medical approach to treat acute and chronic musculoskeletal disorders, including neck pain of all sorts. From bodywork therapies including exotic modalities such as Tui Na and Gua Sha, to the well-known and well-loved Cupping Therapy, to soothing and rejuvenating topical herbal preparations called liniments, to good old fashioned acupuncture, a licensed acupuncturist is trained to fix you right up in the most effective ways possible!
Myth#4: Passive rest is best.
Some believe, “Well, if I just don’t move my neck it doesn’t hurt … as bad.” Are you going to walk around with a neck brace all day? Immobility, or restricting movement, is not the key. Yes, passive rest is great. That means, keep still to recover. Yet, active rest is also a key ingredient in the recovery paradigm. Active rest means gentle ROM (range of movement) exercises to reduce inflammation when chronic, to deliver beneficial nutrients to the area, to increase and maintain natural movement patterns, and to recover any muscle activation from atrophy.
Not moving is a way to avoid pain, true. That only works for so long. Life will not always allow for lack of motion. Remember, movement is life. So, when life demands that you move that area of the body, it is better to move it on your own volition than life moving it for you! Lack of movement also breeds further dis-ease, so be easy on yourself and move your body healthfully. For instruction on healthy exercise while injured, contact an expert in musculoskeletal disorders like the clinicians at our office.
Myth#5: Acupuncture is not an effective long-term treatment.
The World Health Organization (WHO), the ones who publish global statistics on health and medical interventions, in 2003 wrote an official position paper on Acupuncture. In it they listed over 100 unique diseases and disorders that acupuncture medicine treats. The top 28 diseases and disorders that they stated acupuncture was proven effective through controlled clinical trials included 12 pain specific disorders, all listed in alphabetical order. You know what I’m going to write, yes, neck pain was among those listed. So, after reviewing all the research studies, and reviewing the arguments for and against acupuncture, they concluded that acupuncture was proven effective to treat neck pain … and back pain, and arthritic pain, and dental pain, and you get the point.
TCM, including acupuncture, has been proven over and over again to be effective at treating neck pain. Acute or chronic, TCM has an answer for you. You do not have to continue on the merry-go-round of NSAIDs and other pharmaceutical interventions with harsh side effects. You do not have to sit there day in and day out with pain, suffering in silence. You do have other options. At Lakewood Ranch Acupuncture and Wellness, our dedicated practitioners are specially educated, certified, and licensed to treat all that ails you, including neck pain. Whether you live in the Sarasota, FL area or are just visiting, contact our office today to set up your wellness session!
- Bisio, Tom. A Tooth from the Tiger’s Mouth. Fireside Books: New York, 2004.
- Evidence Based Acupuncture. “WHO Official Position.”
- International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP). https://www.iasp-pain.org/files/Content/ContentFolders/GlobalYearAgainstPain2/MusculoskeletalPainFactSheets/NeckPain_Final.pdf. Global Year Against Musculoskeletal Pain: Neck Pain. 2010.
- Mirkin, Gabe. “Why Ice Delays Recovery.” http://www.drmirkin.com/fitness/why-ice-delays-recovery.html.