NICE, an advisory body to the NHS, are actively recommending alternative therapies for the treatment of ongoing back pain:
Patients whose back pain has continued for more than six weeks but less than a year should be offered a choice of 12-weeks of complementary therapy on the NHS, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has concluded.
Patients should be able to choose between eight exercise classes over 12 weeks in a class or individually, nine sessions of manipulation which could be performed by a chiropractor, osteopath, or specially trained physiotherapists and doctors, or ten sessions of acupuncture over 12 weeks.
It is the first time such comprehensive complementary therapy has been recommended for use on the NHS by NICE.
Dr Martin Underwood, a GP and chairman of the guideline, said provision was ‘very variable’. “In some areas people will get quite good access to these facilities. In other areas they won’t be as available. In very few areas or anywhere patients will have the choice of those three options at the moment,” he said.
Prof Peter Littlejohns, director of clinical and public health at NICE, said: “We appreciate it will take some time to implement.” Back pain is estimated to cost the NHS £1.5bn a year and it was suggested the recommendations will not cost extra and may even save money because NICE has listed current treatments for back pain which should be stopped due to a lack of evidence. They include x-rays and scans, laser therapy, lumbar supports, injections in the back and use of a TENS machine (transcutaneous electrical nerve simulation).
Tony Metcalfe, President of the British Chiropractic Association said: “Chiropractors are primary health care practitioners, regulated by law, who provide a package of care that can work independently, or alongside treatment prescribed by NHS doctors and other health care professionals.
“Chiropractic is a mature profession, and the care given has been the subject of numerous research studies, including three funded by the Medical Research Council.”
Mike O’Farrell, Chief Executive of The British Acupuncture Council said: “Every patient who visits a British Acupuncture Council practitioner is given a full consultation prior to treatment, to assess any condition and therefore agree the appropriate treatment.
“The British Acupuncture Council is working towards the forthcoming statutory regulation of acupuncture and other complementary therapies to ensure the highest standards of professional excellence are maintained.”
Link to original article: The Telegraph (27 May 2009)