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Ask an expert - muscles and bones - neck

13 questions

Q:  I am suffering from severe neck pain.  Also how do I go into studying acupuncture and go into this field of work?

As far as the neck pain is concerned, there is considerable evidence for the use of acupuncture for a number of problems which can manifest as neck pain. Our factsheets on pain relief, osteoarthritis and so on, which can be found at this location

all point to encouraging studies which, although far from conclusive, would indicate that you may well get some relief from treatment.

We are a little concerned about the use of the word 'severe', however. The first thing we would ask if your were a patient would be not just a description of all aspects of the pain, but more importantly how it has developed. In modern life there are many reasons why people develop neck pain, in the use of computers for hour after hour, for example, and if their work depends on this they sometimes have to keep soldiering on to the point where a niggling pain may become something far more severe. There are also a number of accidents or near misses which can leave people in this state, and which may or may not have been thoroughly checked out.

We would probably want to be reassured that you had had some conventional medical tests like Xrays or scans to establish where there is a physical cause. Our concern would be that acupuncture treatment might offer pain relief and reduction of some of the inflammation but leave an underlying problem untreated which might deteriorate further. This may sound alarmist but is simply common sense; we believe that patients should get the best of all possible worlds, and if there is structural damage no amount of treatmentis going to change that. Unlikely, it is true, but we would need to check.

The best advice we can give is that you visit a BAcC member local to you and seek a brief face to face assessment of whether they think acupuncture treatment may be of benefit. This will enable them to ask the kinds of question that we might, and to advise you accordingly.

As far as studying acupuncture is concerned, we offer automatic elegibility to graduates of courses accredited by the British Acupuncture Accreditation Board, a list of which can be found here:

There are other courses, but we believe that these have the highest standards of training and enable us to maintain the standards of professionalism which we espouse.

We hope that if you do decide to have acupuncture treatment it works well for you. Nothing could be a greater encouragement to start training!

Q:  I have a badly knotted neck down into my shoulder due, I think, to a lactic acid build up. Can acupuncture help or is massage a better route?

A:  This need not necessarily be an either/or; many of our members are also trained in tui na, which is a form of Chinese massage using the same energetic principles as the acupuncture treatment itself. A large number of members are also trained in forms of conventional massage, and it may well be possible by using a careful google search to find a BAcC member near you who does acupuncture and massage. He or she will be able to use their professional his/her professional judgement about what is the most appropriate way to go forward.
As a general principle, though, we would say that the most important thing to establish is whether the problem is a local one involving a specific set of muscles or whether it is the local manifestation of a deeper problem which requires a different treatment strategy. This is the sort of judgement on which we would find it difficult to speculate at a distance. We would want to see where and how the problem manifests, and ask a great many questions about its onset (gradual or sudden), how it manifests, what makes it feel better or worse, and so on, to get an idea of what may be happening.
Our best advice is for you to visit a BAcC member local to you to ask their opinion of whether acupuncture treatment may be benefical. If they are dual qualified, as we mentioned, then they will be ideally placed to assess what may be the best option for you. Even if they are not, most will know very quickly whether it lies within their limits of competence and advise you accordingly. 

Q:  Can acupuncture get rid of pain that is caused by a bundle of nerve tissue protruding into the 4-5th vertebrae of the neck which is causing the pain.

A:  Acupuncture has a relatively good record as far as pain relief is concerned. As our factsheet shows
there is now a growing body of evidence that acupuncture treatment can play a useful part in the successfull management of chronic pain.
That said, the problem you have is largely a mechanical one, some tissues protruding where it should not be and being impinged. If this is as a consequence of inflammation there is a possibility that the acupuncture treatment may be able to assist in bringing the inflammation under control and breaking the spiral which keeps the pain running - inflammation causes impingement causes further inflammation, and so on. If, however, we are talking about a physical change of a nature which means that certain movements will always create pain, then pain management may be less effective.
The question really is not whether acupuncture will relieve pain, but only by how much and how sustainable any improvement is. In some cases this can lead to some rather difficult financial considerations; if someone gets two good days after a treatment it becomes a matter of whether they can afford that frequency of treatment or whether they can come to some continuing and cost effective arrangement with a practitioner.
However, without a great deal more detail than we have here about the way in which this has become  a problem, what medical and especially neurological opinion has been sought and given, and the nature of pain itself, we cannot be more specific. The best advice that we can give is that you contact a BAcC member local to you and seek a brief face to face assessment where you can explain in greater depth how this problem troubles you, and its history, and they can look at diagnostic information which will enable them to give an honest and informed opinion of whether they believe that acupuncture treatment would be of benefit to you.     


Q:  ] I am looking for acupuncture for neck pain but can't find a therapist who has a hole in their couch for me to put my face into when I'm lying on my tummy - my neck won't allow me to lie with my face to one side. I've been told the treatment can be done with me sat up but I want to be able to relax during the treatment - don't you agree?

A:  We always try to make our patient's comfort a central concern, but obviously there are going to be a few circumstances where the equipment needed to do this is not something which we could require all our members to have. The usual reason for having a couch with the hole is for massage therapy, and given that we insure a considerable number of members for massage alongside their acupuncture work, it should be possible to find someone who is suitably dual qualified. We are not able to give out the names of these practitioners because we can only make recommendations for acupuncturists, but a google search for 'massage' and 'acupuncture' in your area is likely to identify someone suitable.
Good as it is for the experience of treatment to be relaxing, we are bound to say that it is the treatment of the neck which matters most, so we would tend to take the view that the fact that someone couldn't drift off during a session was less important than getting the neck pain sorted. Although relaxation during the treatment is sometimes necessary, in most cases the treatment will be as effective if the patient is simply comfortable while being administered.
We hope, however, that you manage to find someone who can provide exactly what you are looking for.

I have a collapsed 3/4 vertabrea ,which has been laminated ,but causes me dreadfull pain due to nerve damage .do you think acupunture or an of your oother procedures can cut down this nerve pain?


A: Although acupuncture treatment can be extremely helpful for dealing with some kinds of chronic pain and neuropathic pain, as our factsheets show:
there are limits to what one can achieve where there has been physical damage to bone or nerve. If the pain does arise from a damaged nerve, then the best that one might hope for is a reduction in the pain, and the equation to play with then is the extent to which treatment gives relief from the pain and how long relief from pain can be sustained. If regular treatment over a extended period is possible, it is known to relieve pain sufficiently and enable a productive life.  However, each case is different and it’s advisable to contact a fully qualified practitioner who can give a honest assessment of what can be achieved.


That said, the advantages of using traditional medicines such as acupuncture is that they have a very different basis for understanding the workings of the body, is drug free and with limited side effects, there is always a possibility, however remote, that something diagnosable and treatable within the paradigm of Chinese medicine might offer substantial relief. However, to be able to establish this you would need to see a BAcC member face to face to get a proper assessment of whether he or she thinks they could do something to help you.

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