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Pain, whether sensory or emotional, is an unpleasant or discomforting experience that is generally associated with potential or actual tissue damage. (1)
Perhaps one of the most common musculoskeletal complaints that afflict a majority of us from time to time is neck pain.
In some cases, this disorder can acquire a more chronic form, which can be quite debilitating. Neck pain is characteristically confined to the cervical region, but it paves the way for other related complaints such as restriction of the range of motion and/or functional limitations.
Physical body pain of any kind can greatly hamper your productivity and negatively affect the overall quality of your life.
A lot of people turn to conventional analgesic medications to reduce their pain to a bearable degree, which is safe only if used as a temporary form of pain management. However, excessive reliance on painkillers can cause severe, long-term side effects.
The ancient healing technique of acupressure has emerged as an alternative treatment for such common aches and ailments. This all-natural art form involves the use of fingers or customized blunted tools to exert gentle rhythmic pressure on key points of the body, which are referred to as “acupoints”.
The acupoints are where the energy is stored, and the action of stimulating them on the surface of the skin engenders a deep effect as it triggers the body’s natural self-curative abilities into action.
This therapy has its roots in Asia where it was first practiced 5,000 years ago. The fact that it continues to be relevant today is a testament to its efficacy, especially for self-treatment and preventive health care.
Acupressure Points to Relieve Neck Pain
Stimulating these four acupressure points can help provide relief from neck pain.
1. Jian Jing or the Shoulder Well
Jian Jing or GB21 is a stress-relief acupressure point that is located at a distance of two finger widths out from the outside base of your neck on the trapezius muscle. In simpler terms, it can be said the GB21 falls somewhere in between the beginning of the neck and the shoulder.
Most of the tension in the cervical muscles is concentrated at this particular point, and massaging it in gentle, circular motions helps to provide relief.
Before you proceed with the massage, you must first locate GB21 by firmly rubbing the muscles on the top of your shoulders. The point that feels the tightest and most tense is the stress-relief spot that you are looking for.
Once you have identified the acupoint, curve your fingers and exert the weight of your entire arm through them onto the pressure point. It is usually easier to employ your opposite hand to get this task done.
The pain in this particular area usually develops from spasms or overexertion of the targeted muscles, such as by picking a heavy object.
Note: Stimulating the GB21 pressure point is not recommended for pregnant women, as it can adversely affect the health of both the mother and the fetus.
This point is located more accurately at the top of the shoulder, at the highest point of the muscle.
2. Heavenly Pillar/B10/Tianzhu
There are two pressure points on the nape of your neck, which are collectively termed as the Heavenly Pillar or B10.
One point is located at a distance of one thumb width underneath the base of the skull, and the other is just one thumb width out from the center of your spine on your upper neck. The two points fall about two to three centimeters away from each other.
The targeted area here benefits the thyroid gland and helps to restore hormonal balance. Moreover, regularly massaging the Heavenly Pillar pressure points is known to reduce insomnia, heavy-headedness, energy burnout, neck stiffness, stress, and other related problems.
All you need to do is to apply firm, prolonged pressure on these spots on a daily basis for faster and better results for neck pain and other neck-related problems.
Note: This point is best stimulated by another person who can better access it.
3. Gates of consciousness/GB20/Feng Chi
The GB20 acupressure points are yet another pair of pressure spots that help to release shoulder pain, neck stiffness, and tension headaches.
Also termed the gates of consciousness, these points are situated in the hollows underneath the base of your skull, between the perpendicular muscles on the backside of your neck. The distance between the two points is generally about 3 to 4 inches, depending on the size of your body.
The correct way to stimulate these acupressure points is to hold them for 2 to 3 minutes with firm finger pressure, several times over the course of the day. Routinely doing this exercise can release the chronic and acute tensions built up in the shoulder and neck regions of your body.
4. Broken Sequence/LU7/Liqui Lung
The Lung channel, along with six other channels, falls on the arm. There are two acupressure points that are identified as LU7, depending on the style of acupuncture being practiced.
One location for LU7 is on the radius bone in your forearm that ends closest to your thumb, towards the torso. You can easily locate this point by joining your hands between the thumb and forefinger, with your index finger resting along the radius bone such that the tip of your index finger comes to rest in a small notch between the two tendons that lie on top of the styloid process.
Stimulating the LU7 is known to benefit the head, nape of the neck, and the lungs. It is also good for relieving the pain of central or one-sided migraines.
Knowledge About Acupoints
Here is what you need to know about the acupoints, before using acupressure for neck pain relief.
How do you locate a point?
When you press on an acupoint, you are not addressing the pain and tension concentrated on that particular spot alone. Each acupoint is regarded as the epicenter of a wider circle that is diametrically the size of a dollar coin or the width of three fingers.
In effect, massaging anywhere in that circle of influence will tantamount to massaging the acupoint. Thus, you do not have to be very precise about the exact location of a pressure point. As long as you can identify this circle, you are in the right spot.
To access the appropriate pressure point, gently probe the area until you locate the point that feels like a “funny bone” or is particularly sensitive, tender, or sore.
Once you have zeroed in on the pressure point, you can stimulate it by putting steady pressure on it. Alternatively, you can also apply rotating pressure by holding the point for 5 seconds on and 5 seconds off. Whichever approach you choose, 1 minute is more than sufficient for each treatment session.
How much pressure should be applied?
Acupressure works only as long as it is done correctly. It is very important not to go overboard with exerting pressure, as applying too much strain on your body can only aggravate the pain and discomfort.
One must move beyond the simplistic understanding of this ancient healing art as the mere application of pressure. Acupressure principally involves the use of an external energetic touch to draw the latent energy stored deep within the body to the surface.
The idea is to use only as much pressure as what feels comfortable, by resting three fingers on the chosen acupoint with a relaxed touch. Pressure should be firm and deep, but not painful.
How long should you hold a point?
As a general rule of thumb, you should continue pressing a particular acupoint until you feel the following:
- A pulsating sensation
- A softening of the muscle or tissue
- An increase in warmth
When you are required to hold a series of points, it is generally recommended to press on each point for about a minute.
Causes of Neck Pain
Neck pain typically results from and is worsened by neck movements or holding your neck in the same position for too long. There are also certain other factors that can precipitate or contribute to neck pain, including:
- Increased stress
- Awkward sleeping position
- An accident that caused a whiplash
- Spraining the neck
- Strain caused by overexertion of the neck
- A flare-up of cervical spondylosis, which can happen as the discs and joints in the spine age
- Medications that can cause the neck to go into spasm (“torticollis”)
Some cases of stiffness or pain in the neck may not result from any discernible cause. People often strain their neck without even realizing it, such as sitting in a confined space for too long or acquiring a minor twisting injury while gardening. In fact, this form of nonspecific neck pain is perhaps the most common.
The good news is that it usually resolves after a few days, provided you keep on gently moving your neck and you rest when you need to.
Benefits of the Acupressure Technique
- Stimulating the acupressure points helps to release all the pent-up stress and tension in the area being massaged.
- As soon as you release the pressure from the acupoints, you will experience an instant state of physical calm and mental clarity.
- Acupressure involves slow, rhythmic, and deep breathing, which helps to awaken your deeper consciousness.
All it takes is a simple healing touch to make you more alert, calm, clear, awake, and inspired to achieve great things.
How Effective Is Acupressure for Neck Pain Relief?
A 2018 study published in Integrative Medicine Research extends a certain degree of scientific legitimacy to the use of acupressure as an effective treatment strategy for neck pain. (2)
That said, research pertaining to this subject continues to be largely inconclusive due to low methodological quality and low evidence level of included studies.
However, one can say for certain that acupressure has piqued the interest of the scientific community, and further studies highlighting the multifarious benefits of this therapy are bound to follow.
Caution: In order to guarantee the success and safety of any and every acupressure technique, you must first get acquainted with all the relevant information and steps for doing it properly. If you are not going to do it right, you should not do it at all.
Because of the increased prevalence of neck pain and the detrimental effects of the medications that are generally used to deal with it, there is a growing interest among people to explore other unconventional yet effective methods of pain relief.
Acupressure has gained a lot of traction in this regard. This intervention utilizes the therapeutic power of touch to reduce pain, boost your immune system, relieve tension, and promote blood circulation. Thus, for all intents and purposes, acupressure relies on the power and sensitivity of the hand to relieve various ailments, including musculoskeletal pain.
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