Acupressure for Neck Pain: 4 Points to Try, Why It Works, and More
Pain, whether sensory or emotional, is an unpleasant or uncomfortable experience that is usually associated with potential or actual tissue damage.
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 very debilitating. Neck pain is typically confined to the cervical region, but it opens the door to other related complaints such as restricted range of motion and / or functional limitations.
The physical pain of any kind can significantly hamper your productivity and affect the overall quality of your life.
Many people are turning to conventional pain relievers to reduce their pain to a bearable level, which is only safe if it is used as a temporary form of pain management. However, excessive dependence on these pain relievers can lead to serious long-term side effects.
Due to the increasing prevalence of neck pain and the deleterious effects of the drugs commonly used to treat it, there is a growing interest among people to explore other unconventional but effective methods of pain relief.
The old acupressure healing technique is one such alternative that has gained a lot of traction in this regard. This all-natural art form involves the use of custom blunt fingers or tools to exert slight rhythmic pressure on key points on the body, called “acupuncture points.”
Acupuncture points are where energy is stored and the action of stimulating them on the surface of the skin has a profound effect as it triggers the body’s natural self-healing abilities in action.
The therapeutic power of touch is enough to reduce pain, boost your immune system, relieve tension and promote blood circulation. So, for all intents and purposes, acupressure relies on the power and sensitivity of the hand to relieve various conditions, including musculoskeletal pain.
This therapy has its roots in Asia where it was first practised 5000 years ago. The fact that it continues to be relevant today testifies to its effectiveness, especially for self-treatment and preventive health care.
Causes of neck pain
Neck pain usually results from and is made worse by the movement of the neck or keeping your neck in one 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
- Neck sprain
- Strain caused by overexertion of the neck
- A flare-up of cervical spondylosis, which can occur when the discs and joints of the spine age
- Medicines that can cause spasms in the neck (“stiff necks”)
Some cases of stiffness or pain in the neck may not be the result of a discernible cause. People often tire their necks without even realizing it, such as sitting in a confined space for too long or suffering a minor torsional injury while gardening. In fact, this form of nonspecific neck pain is perhaps the most common.
The good news is that it usually goes away after a few days, provided you keep moving your neck gently and resting when you need it.
Acupressure points to relieve neck pain
1. Jian Jing or the shoulder well
Jian Jing or GB21 is a relaxing acupressure point which is located at a distance of two finger widths from the outer base of your neck on the trapezius muscle. In simpler terms, we can say that the GB21 is located somewhere 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 movements helps to relieve it.
Before starting the massage, you must first locate GB21 by firmly rubbing the muscles on the top of your shoulders. The point that seems tightest and most tense to you is the point of relaxation that you are looking for.
Once you have identified the acupuncture point, bend your fingers and exercise the weight of your whole arm across them on the pressure point. It is generally easier to use your opposite hand to perform this task.
Pain in this particular area usually develops from spasms or overworking of the targeted muscles, for example when picking up a heavy object.
Note: GB21 pressure point stimulation is not recommended for pregnant women, as it can harm the health of the mother and fetus.
This point is located more precisely at the top of the shoulder, at the highest point of the muscle.
2. Celestial pillar / B10 / Tianzhu
There are two pressure points on the back of the neck, collectively called the Celestial Pillar or B10.
One point is located an inch width below the base of the skull, and the other is only an inch width from the center of your spine on the top of your neck. The two points fall about two to three centimeters from each other.
The target area here benefits the thyroid gland and helps restore hormonal balance. In addition, regular massage of the celestial pillar pressure points is known to reduce sleeplessness, dizziness, energy exhaustion, stiff neck, stress and other related problems.
All you need to do is apply firm and prolonged pressure on these spots daily 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. Doors of consciousness / GB20 / Feng Chi
GB20 acupressure points are yet another pair of pressure points that help relieve shoulder pain, stiff neck and tension headaches.
Also called the gates of consciousness, these points are located in the hollows below the base of your skull, between the muscles perpendicular to the back of your neck. The distance between the two points is usually about 3 to 4 inches, depending on your body size.
The right way to stimulate these acupressure points is to hold them for 2 to 3 minutes with firm finger pressure, several times during the day. Doing this exercise regularly can release the chronic and acute tension built up in the shoulder and neck regions of your body.
4. Broken sequence / LU7 / Liqui Lung
The pulmonary canal, along with six other canals, falls on the arm. There are two acupressure points identified as LU7, depending on the style of acupuncture practiced.
A location for LU7 is on the radius bone of your forearm, which ends closest to your thumb, toward the torso. You can easily locate this point by joining your hands between your thumb and forefinger, your index finger resting along the radius bone so that the tip of your index finger rests in a small notch between the two tendons which found on top of the styloid process.
LU7 stimulation is known to benefit the head, neck and lungs. It is also good for relieving the pain of central or unilateral migraines.
Knowledge of acupuncture points
How do you locate a point?
When you press an acupuncture point, you are not addressing the pain and tension that is concentrated only on that particular point. Each acupuncture point is considered to be the epicenter of a larger circle the size of a dollar coin or the width of three fingers.
Massaging anywhere in this circle of influence will be tantamount to massaging the acupuncture point. So you don’t have to be very specific about the exact location of a pressure point. As long as you can identify this circle, you have come to the right place.
To access the appropriate pressure point, gently probe the area until you locate the point that looks like a “funny bone” or is particularly tender, tender, or sore.
Once you have zeroed the pressure point, you can stimulate it by applying constant pressure. Alternatively, you can also apply rotary pressure by holding the point for 5 seconds on and 5 seconds off. Whichever approach you choose, 1 minute is more than enough for each treatment session.
What pressure should be applied?
Acupressure only works as long as it is done correctly. It is very important not to go too far in exerting pressure, as applying too much pressure on your body can only make the pain and discomfort worse.
We must go beyond the simplistic understanding of this ancient healing art as the simple application of pressure. Acupressure mainly involves the use of an external energetic touch to draw to the surface the latent energy stored deep in the body.
The idea is to use only as much pressure as is comfortable, placing three fingers on the chosen acupuncture point with a relaxed touch. The pressure should be firm and deep, but not painful.
How long should you keep a point?
As a general rule, you should continue to press on a particular acupuncture point until you experience the following:
- A thrilling sensation
- Softening of muscle or tissue
- An increase in heat
When you need to hold a series of points, it is generally recommended that you press each point for about a minute.
Advantages of the acupressure technique
- Stimulating acupressure points releases all the tension and tension accumulated in the area to be massaged.
- As soon as you release the pressure from the acupuncture points, you will experience an instant state of physical calm and mental clarity.
- Acupressure involves slow, rhythmic, deep breathing, which helps wake up your deeper awareness.
All it takes is a simple touch of healing to make you more alert, calm, clear, awake and inspired to achieve great things.
How effective is acupressure in relieving neck pain?
A 2018 study published in Research in integrative medicine extends some degree of scientific legitimacy to the use of acupressure as an effective treatment strategy for neck pain.
That said, research on this topic continues to be largely inconclusive due to the poor methodological quality and the low level of evidence from the included studies.
However, it can be said with certainty that acupressure has aroused interest in the scientific community, and further studies highlighting the multiple benefits of this therapy are sure to follow.
Caution: In order to guarantee the success and safety of all acupressure techniques, you must first familiarize yourself with all the relevant information and steps to do it properly. If you’re not going to do it right, you shouldn’t be doing it at all.
- IASP terminology. IASP. https://www.iasp-pain.org/Education/Content.aspx?ItemNumber=1698#Pain.
- Kwon C-Y, Lee B. Clinical effects of acupressure on neck pain syndrome (nakchim): a systematic review. Research in integrative medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6160503/. Published in September 2018.