Stiffness in the neck shoulder and upper back

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Stiffness in the neck shoulder and upper back 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 stiffness in the neck shoulder and upper back 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 stiffness in the neck shoulder and upper back is often associated with headaches, dizziness and tinnitus in the pattern “Liver Yang Rising”.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of stiffness in the neck shoulder and upper back we’ve identified two 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 stiffness in the neck shoulder and upper back.

Liver Yang Rising, a "pattern of disharmony" that can cause stiffness in the neck shoulder and upper back

In Chinese Medicine stiffness in the neck shoulder and upper back is a symptom for the pattern "Liver Yang Rising". Below is a small explanation for it with links for more details.

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

Liver Yang Rising

Pulse type(s): Wiry (Xian)

Tongue color: Red

Long term Liver Yin Deficiency causes Liver Yang rising upwards. The treatment should be focused on subduing rising Yang as well as nourishing Liver Yin and Blood. It is also called Arrogant Liver Yang.

In addition to stiffness in the neck shoulder and upper back, other symptoms associated with Liver Yang Rising include headaches, dizziness and tinnitus.

Liver Yang Rising is often treated with Liu Wei Di Huang Wan, a herbal formula made of 6 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Liu Wei Di Huang Wan belongs to the category of "formulas that nourish yin and tonify", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Nutritive tonic for the Liver and Kidney Yin Essence (nourishes the parasympathetic nervous system)".

Read more about Liver Yang Rising here

Two herbal formulas that might help with stiffness in the neck shoulder and upper back

Liu Wei Di Huang Wan

Source date: 1119 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Nutritive tonic for the Liver and Kidney Yin Essence (nourishes the parasympathetic nervous system).

Why might Liu Wei Di Huang Wan help with stiffness in the neck shoulder and upper back?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Liver Yang Rising' of which stiffness in the neck shoulder and upper back is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Liver Yang Rising include headaches, dizziness and tinnitus.

Read more about Liu Wei Di Huang Wan here

Qi Ju Di Huang Wan

Source date: 1350 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes Kidney and Liver Yin. Improves vision.

Why might Qi Ju Di Huang Wan help with stiffness in the neck shoulder and upper back?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Liver Yang Rising' of which stiffness in the neck shoulder and upper back is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Liver Yang Rising include headaches, dizziness and tinnitus.

Read more about Qi Ju Di Huang Wan here

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat stiffness in the neck shoulder and upper back

Why might Mudan Peony Bark (Mu Dan Pi) help with stiffness in the neck shoulder and upper back?

Because Mudan Peony Bark is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat stiffness in the neck shoulder and upper back as a symptom, like Liu Wei Di Huang Wan or Qi Ju Di Huang Wan for instance.

Mudan Peony Bark is a Cool herb that tastes Bitter and Pungent. It targets the Heart, the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Cools the Blood, activates Blood circulation and resolves Blood stasis.

Read more about Mudan Peony Bark here

Why might Water Plantain (Ze Xie) help with stiffness in the neck shoulder and upper back?

Because Water Plantain is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat stiffness in the neck shoulder and upper back as a symptom, like Liu Wei Di Huang Wan or Qi Ju Di Huang Wan for instance.

Water Plantain is a Cold herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Bladder and the Kidney.

Its main actions are: Causes urination and removes Damp-Heat

Read more about Water Plantain here

Why might Prepared Rehmannia (Shu Di Huang) help with stiffness in the neck shoulder and upper back?

Because Prepared Rehmannia is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat stiffness in the neck shoulder and upper back 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 Cornelian Cherry (Shan Zhu Yu) help with stiffness in the neck shoulder and upper back?

Because Cornelian Cherry is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat stiffness in the neck shoulder and upper back as a symptom, like Liu Wei Di Huang Wan or Qi Ju Di Huang Wan for instance.

Cornelian Cherries is a Warm herb that tastes Sour. It targets the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Preserves and tonifies the Kidney, Liver and Essence. Stops sweating and benefits the Yang and Qi. Assists menstruation and stops bleeding.

Read more about Cornelian Cherries here

Why might Yam (Shan Yao) help with stiffness in the neck shoulder and upper back?

Because Yam is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat stiffness in the neck shoulder and upper back as a symptom, like Liu Wei Di Huang Wan or Qi Ju Di Huang Wan for instance.

Yam is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Kidney and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Spleen and Stomach. Tonifies the Lung Qi and nourishes the Lung Yin. Nourishes the Kidneys and consolidates Jing.

Read more about Yam here