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An Alternative to Opioids for Neck Pain

by Brandon Fuller, A.P.


Many Americans spend the majority of their lives in pain, as we have seen in our daily news. The top headlines generally read “Opioid Epidemic” or “Pain Medication” which, in turn, are causing many individuals to question their conventional treatments to pain. Alternatives such as acupuncture have now become the mainstream for pain management and reduction. Even hospitals are adopting a non-pharmacological approach as the first option.

One of the most common forms of pain is in the neck, upper back and shoulders. Almost everyone will experience some neck pain or stiffness during their lifetime. Individuals who perform manual labor, for instance, have shown more symptoms than office workers. A person's age bracket and medical history are also contributing factors.

People who are required to perform repetitive tasks such as with their upper extremities (lifting), or who undertake prolonged periods of sitting such as at an office desk, with their heads in a flexed position, are at an even higher risk of developing neck pain.

The neck is the bridge between the head and the body, and it must be strong enough to support the weight of the head (which is about one-tenth of the entire body weight). It also needs to be flexible, as the eyes, ears, nose and mouth require the head to make rapid and accurate movements. But due to the issue of stability created around the base of the neck leading to the thoracic area, pain is commonly felt in the neck. Since tension in the thoracic spine can impact the neck, practitioners often treat the upper back too while addressing the neck.

Another common feature of the neck, upper back and shoulder pain is mental stress. Stress in itself is not problematic. Some stress is needed for the body to function correctly, as well as to mentally stimulate and motivate people into action. But problems occur when individuals resist taking time to relax and rebuild which leads to the possibility of permanent damage.

Acupuncture is a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine that has been around for thousands of years. Sterile, single use, filiform needles (about the size of a hair) are placed on specific points which trigger impulses that tell the body to increase response to an area or decrease inflammation of the area. As more research is conducted on acupuncture, we are finding that more and more conditions can be treated without the need for conventional medicines.

One such study has shown that acupuncture releases endorphins throughout the body, giving the individuals euphoric sensations. Studies also demonstrate acupuncture to be effective in relieving neck pain, particularly caused by whiplash or trauma. Moreover, studies suggest acupuncture can treat a wide variety of degenerative neck disorders such as ankylosing spondylosis and cervical spondylosis.

Acupuncture has offered hope for many patients whose medical conditions could not be treated using conventional approaches. Acupuncture woks to deeply relax the muscles in the neck and shoulders, reducing inflammation and balancing the nervous system which, in turn, helps to reduce pain, leading to an increased period of relief even after the treatment and course of treatments have finished.

Acupressure and herbal medicine are often used in conjunction with acupuncture for a multiplicity of pain issues including neck pain. Applying acupressure or acupuncture to the cervical muscles can reduce spasms, increase healthy blood flow to the area, and lessen overall pain, leading to a relaxed state and an intensified sense of well-being. Contingent on the patient's condition, herbal products can often be used to improve circulation and blood flow, further increasing the healing time and reduction of muscle contraction.


At East West College of Natural Medicine, located at 3808 North Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, we not only teach classes, but offer a professional clinic and herbal pharmacy that features more than 400 raw herbs and numerous patent formulas. The raw herbs are carefully selected to guarantee they are organically grown and free of pesticides and preservatives. All students are trained in the herbal dispensary, working with patients to assess, prescribe and prepare formulas under the supervision of our resident pharmacist. For more information, call 941-355-9080, text 941-254-2554 or visit


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