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Back pain acupuncture on the NHS

27th May 2009

Acupuncture, massage or exercise should be offered on the NHS to patients with persistent low back pain, according to new guidance.

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The move is the first time the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has backed the use of complementary therapies.

With low back pain affecting one in three adults in the UK each year, NICE say there is evidence to suggest such therapies will be cost effective.

Its new guidance indicates that any patient whose pain persists for more than six weeks and up to a year should be given a choice of several treatments.

The ruling gives GPs the scope to offer complementary treatments in addition to painkillers and regular advice to stay active and carry on with normal activities.

Options are for up to eight exercise sessions, 10 sessions of acupuncture or a course of manual therapy.

NICE Clinical and Public Health Director Professor Peter Littlejohns said: "There is variation in current clinical practice, so this new NICE guideline means that for the first time we now have the means for a consistent national approach to managing low back pain.

"Importantly, patients whose pain is not improving should have access to a choice of different therapies including acupuncture, structured exercise and manual therapy."

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy and the charity BackCare welcomed the guidelines.

However, Professor Edzard Ernst, an expert in complementary medicine at Peninsula Medical School, was more cautious, particularly over the spinal manipulation recommendation.

The new NICE guidelines apply to England and Wales.

 

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