Acupuncture for Cervical Spine Therapy
If you’ve been following my story, you know that I broke my neck June 30 and was released from my cervical collar September 27. For some reason, my doctor didn’t prescribe physical therapy as part of my recovery. Instead, he told me that I should be able to do everything myself. Furthermore, he informed me that if I came back complaining of pain, he was going to refer me on to a pain specialist.
Needless to say, when I discovered that this therapy time was more painful than any other phase of this process, I did not call my doctor. Instead, I took matters into my own hands.
What To Do
Last year around this time, my mom discovered acupuncture. She was searching for a therapy to help her continue to improve from the stroke she had several years ago. All the information she read indicated that acupuncture might help.
She started receiving regular acupuncture treatments and has noticed significant improvements in several areas affected by her stroke. (To read more about using acupuncture as a form of post-stroke therapy, click here.) If acupuncture could help reduce my mom’s pain and improve her muscle function, surely it could help me, too.
I had two pain-management goals: 1. To be able to turn my head without arresting pain during the day and 2. To sleep without Tylenol to dull the constant pain at night. These sounded like reasonable, attainable goals to me; but they were elusive.
No matter how often I stretched my neck and strengthened the muscles, my head would only turn to a certain spot before a spasm of pain stopped my rotation. At night, as I would fall asleep, my head would slightly turn. Right as I’d fall asleep, a muscle spasm would jerk me awake. I was ready for this horrible cycle to be over.
Acupuncture for the Cervical Spine
Luckily for me, my chiropractor also performs acupuncture. I made an appointment and was cautiously optimistic about the results.
Previously, she performed acupuncture on me when I was trying to prevent a sinus infection. After the acupuncture treatment, I felt that my sinuses drained and my condition improved. I was hoping she would be able to do something similar for the pain in my neck.
She had me lay down on my stomach and placed needles at several points on my neck and head, at a couple of spots on the back of my legs, and one on the sole of each foot. Most of the time when the needles were inserted, it didn’t hurt.
A couple of times, though, it really did. When those spots were hit with the needle, it seemed like a light bulb exploded in my brain. Truly, I believe I saw a flash of light. It was intense and painful but only for a second or two. Then, it was fine.
After she had all the needles placed, my chiropractor left the room to let me rest. At first, I was very comfortable and started to relax into the face cradle. However, after several minutes, my sinuses began to get stuffy and my nose started to clog.
I decided to lift my head to get a temporary break for my sinuses. When I lifted my head, my sinuses opened, but a sharp jolt went from one of the needles in my neck to my brain. Again, another flash of light. Suffice to say, I lowered my head as quickly as I could.
I rested with my head lowered for the rest of the time. Maybe lifting my head and feeling that intense sensation was good, but I didn’t want to risk doing damage to myself. After all, if she wanted me to occasionally lift my head, she would have said so.
I could not have been more pleased with the results from this treatment. Immediately, there was no more pain when I rotated my head. At night, I noticed an improved quality of sleep and was able to make it through the night without Tylenol. To my surprise, these wonderful effects lasted for about a week.
Truthfully, I’m not exactly sure how long the effects lasted because after several pain-free days, I scheduled another session for the following week. My plan is to continue acupuncture weekly in conjunction with the stretches and strengthening exercises that I’m doing for my neck at home.
However, since my acupuncturist is also my chiropractor, she was able to prescribe physical therapy for me. I’m holding onto that script right now like a Wonka golden ticket. If my neck isn’t working exactly like it should by January, I’m going to finally get to start physical therapy!
Do you have any other tips for cervical spine rehabilitation? Let us know in the comments below.
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From my once paralyzed dog (who started walking within 12 hours of his first acupuncture session) to my various injuries treated using acupuncture/needling, I’m wholeheartedly a believer in this!
I have been seeing a Chiro in Weston for dry needling. It has been very helpful with my neck/back recovery. It targets pressure points instead of following TCM concepts (qi, meridians, etc.) and it’s just plain NUTS how much it helped my neck.
Glad to hear you’re on the up and up!
Thanks so much, Jess! I haven’t tried dry needling yet, but my acupuncturist was actually talking to me about it yesterday! It’s on my list to try for the new year.