Neck stiffness according to Chinese Medicine

rigidity of neck, stiff neck redirect here

Neck stiffness can be the consequence of several so-called “patterns of disharmony” in Chinese Medicine.

Chinese Medicine sees the body as a system, not a sum of isolated parts. A "pattern" is when the system's harmony is disrupted, leading to symptoms or signs that something is wrong (like neck stiffness here). It is similar to the concept of disease in Western Medicine but not quite: a Western disease can often be explained by several Chinese patterns and vice-versa.

A pattern often manifests itself in a combination of symptoms that, at first glance, do not seem necessarily related to each others. For instance here neck stiffness is often associated with convulsions, opisthotonos and high fever in the pattern “/tcm-education-center/patterns/heat-victorious-stirring-wind”. As you will see below, we have in record four patterns that can cause neck stiffness.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of neck stiffness we’ve identified five herbal formulas that may help treat patterns behind the symptom.

We’ve also selected below the five medicinal herbs that we think are most likely to help treat neck stiffness.

The four "patterns of disharmony" that can cause neck stiffness

In Chinese Medicine neck stiffness is a symptom for 4 patterns that we have on record. Below is a small explanation for each of them with links for more details.

Saiga Antelope's Horns (Ling Yang Jiao) is the king ingredient for Ling Jiao Gou Teng Tang, a formula used for /tcm-education-center/patterns/heat-victorious-stirring-wind

Heat victorious stirring Wind

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Wiry (Xian)

In addition to neck stiffness, other symptoms associated with /tcm-education-center/patterns/heat-victorious-stirring-wind include convulsions, opisthotonos and high fever.

/tcm-education-center/patterns/heat-victorious-stirring-wind is often treated with Ling Jiao Gou Teng Tang, a herbal formula made of 10 herbs (including Saiga Antelope's Horns - Ling Yang Jiao - as a key herb). Ling Jiao Gou Teng Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that pacify and extinguish internal wind", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Cools the Liver".

Read more about Heat victorious stirring Wind here

The Liver is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Liver in Chinese Medicine

Liver Wind agitating Internally due to extreme Heat

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Wiry (Xian), Full (Shi)

Tongue coating: Thick coating, Yellow coating

Tongue color: Red

Tongue shape: Stiff

The invasion of Exterior Wind-Heat leads to this pattern and it then transforms to Interior Wind and Heat.

In addition to neck stiffness, other symptoms associated with /tcm-education-center/patterns/liver-wind-agitating-internally-due-to-extreme-heat include dizziness, convulsions and opisthotonos.

/tcm-education-center/patterns/liver-wind-agitating-internally-due-to-extreme-heat is often treated with Tian Ma Gou Teng Yin, a herbal formula made of 11 herbs (including Gastrodia Rhizomes - Tian Ma - as a key herb). Tian Ma Gou Teng Yin belongs to the category of "formulas that pacify and extinguish internal wind", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Calms the Liver".

Read more about Liver Wind agitating Internally due to extreme Heat here

Prepared Sichuan Aconite (Zhi Chuan Wu) is the king ingredient for Wu Tou Tang, a formula used for /tcm-education-center/patterns/cold-invading-the-channels-joints-and-muscles

Cold invading the Channels joints and muscles

Pulse type(s): Tight (Jin), Floating (Fu)

In addition to neck stiffness, other symptoms associated with /tcm-education-center/patterns/cold-invading-the-channels-joints-and-muscles include joint pain, swollen joints and numbness of the muscles.

/tcm-education-center/patterns/cold-invading-the-channels-joints-and-muscles is often treated with Wu Tou Tang, a herbal formula made of 6 herbs (including Prepared Sichuan Aconite - Zhi Chuan Wu - as a key herb). Wu Tou Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that warm the meridians and disperse cold", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Warms the channels and remove obstruaction".

Read more about Cold invading the Channels joints and muscles here

Ephedra (Ma Huang) is the king ingredient for Ma Huang Tang, a formula used for /tcm-education-center/patterns/exterior-cold

Exterior-Cold

Pulse type(s): Tight (Jin), Floating (Fu)

In addition to neck stiffness, other symptoms associated with /tcm-education-center/patterns/exterior-cold include aversion to cold, fever and loose stools.

/tcm-education-center/patterns/exterior-cold is often treated with Ma Huang Tang, a herbal formula made of 4 herbs (including Ephedra - Ma Huang - as a key herb). Ma Huang Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that clear wind-cold", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Releases exterior cold".

Read more about Exterior-Cold here

Five herbal formulas that might help with neck stiffness

Ling Jiao Gou Teng Tang

Source date: Qing dynasty

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Cools the Liver. Extinguishes Wind. Increases Fluids. Relaxes the sinews.

Why might Ling Jiao Gou Teng Tang help with neck stiffness?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/heat-victorious-stirring-wind' of which rigidity of neck is a symptom.

Read more about Ling Jiao Gou Teng Tang here

Tian Ma Gou Teng Yin

Source date: 1958 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Key actions: Calms the Liver. Extinguishes wind. Invigorates the blood. Clears heat. Tonifies the Liver and Kidneys.

Why might Tian Ma Gou Teng Yin help with neck stiffness?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/liver-wind-agitating-internally-due-to-extreme-heat' of which rigidity of neck is a symptom.

Read more about Tian Ma Gou Teng Yin here

Wu Tou Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Warms the channels and remove obstruaction. Disperse Cold and Dampness. Warms the joints. Relieve joints pain.

Why might Wu Tou Tang help with neck stiffness?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/cold-invading-the-channels-joints-and-muscles' of which stiff neck is a symptom.

Read more about Wu Tou Tang here

Ma Huang Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Releases exterior cold. Treats wheezing.

Why might Ma Huang Tang help with neck stiffness?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/exterior-cold' of which stiff neck is a symptom.

Read more about Ma Huang Tang here

Gui Zhi Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Releases pathogens from the muscle layer. Regulates the Nutritive and Protective Qi.

Why might Gui Zhi Tang help with neck stiffness?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/exterior-cold' of which stiff neck is a symptom.

Read more about Gui Zhi Tang here

Acupuncture points used for neck stiffness

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat neck stiffness

Why might Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with neck stiffness?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat neck stiffness as a symptom, like Wu Tou Tang or Ma Huang Tang for instance.

Liquorice is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Lung, the Spleen and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Basal Qi and nourishes the Spleen Qi. Clears Heat and dispels toxicity. Moistens the Lungsexpel phlegm and stop coughing. Relieves spasms and alleviates pain. Harmonizes and moderates the effects of other herbs.

Read more about Liquorice here

Why might White Peony Root (Bai Shao) help with neck stiffness?

Because White Peony Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat neck stiffness as a symptom, like Gui Zhi Tang or Wu Tou Tang for instance.

White Peony Roots is a Neutral herb that tastes Bitter and Sour. It targets the Liver and the Spleen.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Blood and preserves the Yin. Nourishes the Liver and assists in the smooth flow of Qi. Regulates the meridians and eases the pain.

Read more about White Peony Roots here

Why might Prepared Rehmannia (Shu Di Huang) help with neck stiffness?

Because Prepared Rehmannia is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat neck stiffness as a symptom, like Liu Wei Di Huang Wan or Qi Ju Di Huang Wan for instance.

Prepared Rehmannia is a Warm herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Blood. Tonifies the Yin of the Kidneys.

Read more about Prepared Rehmannia here

Why might Host-Wood Poria (Fu Shen) help with neck stiffness?

Because Host-Wood Poria is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat neck stiffness as a symptom, like Zhen Zhu Mu Wan or Tian Ma Gou Teng Yin for instance.

Host-Wood Poria is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Spleen and the Heart.

Its main actions are: Calms the Mind (Shen) and promote urination.

Read more about Host-Wood Poria here

Why might Poria-Cocos Mushroom (Fu Ling) help with neck stiffness?

Because Poria-Cocos Mushroom is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat neck stiffness as a symptom, like Liu Wei Di Huang Wan or Qi Ju Di Huang Wan for instance.

Poria-Cocos Mushrooms is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Kidney, the Lung and the Spleen.

Its main actions are: Encourages urination and drains Dampness. Tonic to the Spleen/Stomach. Assists the Heart and calms the Spirit.

Read more about Poria-Cocos Mushrooms here