Massages Help Relieve Chronic Neck, Shoulder Pain

September 5, 2017
By Jiang MiaoEditor: Gu Wentong and Amanda Wu

A woman receives massage treatment. [Provided by Quanjing]


Do you realize many people suffer from chronic neck and shoulder pain? The cause of such pain might, very likely, be cervical spondylosis, a disorder in which there is wearing of the cartilage (discs) and bones of the neck (cervical vertebrae). Medical studies have proved that massage therapy is a simple, effective way to treat the disease. Jiang Miao recommends some simple massage techniques to help you relieve pain in the neck and/or shoulders. All you need to do is press, rub and manipulate the skin, muscles and ligaments with your hands and fingers. Or, you may ask a family member to do the work. After, you will surely feel like a new person.

In the past, cervical spondylosis seemed to be the "patent" of white-collared employees (with enterprises across the country), who bent over their desks working for a long time (in air-conditioned rooms), but who spent little time exercising. As an increasing number of Chinese — both men and women, and the young and the elderly — in recent years have become "smartphone addicts" (who check their smartphones compulsively), more Chinese have suffered from the disease.

Cervical spondylosis is caused by aging and chronic wear on the cervical spine (part of the spine in the neck region). This includes the discs or cushions between the neck vertebrae and the joints between the bones of the cervical spine. There may be abnormal growths or spurs on the bones of the spine (vertebrae). Over time, these changes can press down on one or more of the nerve roots. In advanced cases, the spinal cord becomes involved. This can affect not just the arms, but the legs as well.

The main symptoms of cervical spondylosis include neck stiffness and pain, dizziness, vomit and weakness or numbness in the limbs, hands and/or feet. Moreover, the disease may lead to complications, such as blurred vision, impaired swallowing and/or tachycardia (a heart rate that exceeds the normal resting rate). The disease may even cause loss of feeling in the limbs, hands and/or feet.

You may take medicine and/or receive physical therapy at a hospital to help you relieve your neck and/or shoulder pain. If the pain is not eased by the treatments, or if you have a loss of movement or feeling, surgery is considered. Surgery is done to relieve the pressure on the nerves or spinal cord. To prevent this (from happening), you should always keep your neck warm and often do exercises to make your neck muscles stronger.

If you suffer from cervical spondylosis, especially if you suffer from acute cervical spondylotic radiculopathy (which occurs when the root of a nerve is pressed on or damaged as it comes out from the spinal cord in the neck region), you must not randomly massage or drag your neck, otherwise the root of the nerve might become more swollen. Also, you must not press the vertebrae region hard, otherwise you might even lose control or feeling in the body parts lower than the chest, including the stomach, waist, limbs, hands and feet.

Massaging the acupuncture points along your Small Intestine Meridian of Hand-taiyang (a passage through which vital energy circulates, regulating bodily functions) may help you cure cervical spondylosis. The points include Jianzhongshu (about 2.6 inches lateral to the lower border of the spinous process of the seventh cervical vertebra), Jianwaishu (in the inserting levator muscle of the scapula), Quyuan (at the inner, upper sides of the scapula), Bingfeng (in the center of the supraspinal cavity of the scapula), Tianzong (in the center of the intraspinal cavity of the scapula), Naoshu (above the axillary crease, on the bottom edge of the spine of the scapula), Jianzhen (1.3 inches above the axillary crease), Yanglao (slightly above the wrist) and Houxi (when a loose fist is made, at the ulnar end of the distal palmar crease proximal to the fifth metacarpal phalangeal joint where the skin changes colors). In addition to Tianzong and Houxi (which you may massage for a longer time), you may massage each of the other points for one-three minutes.

Massaging Houxi produces the most notable results in treating cervical and lumbar spondylosis. It also helps cure headache, back pain, deafness and redness of the eyes. As the acupuncture point is "wrapped" in your hand's flesh, you can hardly stimulate the point with your fingers. You may use an acupoint bar, a ballpoint pen (not its pen point) or an edge of a table to press Houxi.

Massaging Tianzong promotes the generation of yangqi in your body. You may use your thumb or an acupoint bar to press the point. Despite the pain and soreness around Houxi and Tianzong, you should keep massaging the points, to remove obstacles from the passages through which vital energy circulates, regulating bodily functions.

After you massage all of the points one or two times, you may discover the symptoms of cervical spondylosis are relieved. Given its ease of use and notable health benefits, the massage therapy will become a "magic weapon" to help you beat the disease.


Yangqi, central to the Taoist view and practice of qi, is the life force that animates the forms of the world. It is the vibratory nature of phenomena — the flow that is happening continuously at molecular, atomic and subatomic levels. According to Taoist cosmology, the two most fundamental forms of qi are yinqi (feminine) and yangqi (masculine), which are the primordial feminine and masculine energies.

About the Author

Jiang Miao is an associate professor with the Institute of Basic Research in Clinical Medicine, under the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences. Jiang has focused on TCM (traditional Chinese Medicine) clinical trials and research for 20 years. She joined the research programs of the School of Chinese Medicine, under Hong Kong Baptist University, and of the University of Hawaii Cancer Center as a visiting scholar in 2011 and 2015, respectively.


Jiang Miao [Provided by Jiao Miao]

A woman receives massage treatment. [Provided by Quanjing]

Acupuncture points [Provided by Quanjing]

Acupuncture points [Provided by Quanjing]

(Source: Women of China English Monthly June 2017 Issue)

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