It has now issued a new guideline NICE NG59 Low back pain and sciatica in over 16s: assessment and management, in which it no longer recommends acupuncture and electrotherapies as a recommended treatment for back pain.
As you can imagine there has been much activity behind the political scenes with lobbying from the three main acupuncture governing bodies in the UK. However rather sadly NICE has still excluded acupuncture in its recommendations, which is a great shame as myself and many other acupuncturists, osteopaths and physios use acupuncture for back pain and over many years have found it to be beneficial for a whole range of back pain sufferers. I feel sure that regardless of what NICE recommends it is not going to prevent patients from finding their way to the doors of those practitioners who use acupuncture and I am certainly not about to stop using it for lower back pain!
What NICE have recommended though is a patient- centred approach to managing lower back pain. What does that mean? Well it means as practitioners we need to assess any issues that may prevent a patient from improving and the level of risk that poses. This would then help a practitioner to manage lower back pain better for that patient. Interestingly it discourages the use of imaging like x ray or MRI's for non-routine patients as it is not always reliable. By that I mean that what is seen on imaging does not always relate to the cause of the pain, particularly with the more chronic back pain.
So what does this guideline mean to me, well it is a chance for me like many other practitioners to reflect on my practice and ensure that I tailor my advice, information and treatment to people's individual needs and capabilities, whilst encouraging people to continue with normal activities as much as possible.
Speaking with my osteopathic hat on I shall continue to use my manual skills (and in my case acupuncture) using gentle hands-on techniques to stretch muscles, rebalance the body mechanics, improve back mobility and reduce spasms. Like many manual therapists, not just osteopaths I already use exercise programmes as part of rehabilitation. It is important to take account of people's specific needs, preferences and capabilities when choosing the type of exercise. For example for some it may be important to strengthen certain muscles groups, for others there may be the need for exercises that help them to adjust their posture while for other people is may be purely about lifestyle advice to help prevent the problem from re-occurring.
Here at the Centre it is certainly an opportunity not to be missed for us as osteopaths and physios to be more reflective about meeting our patient needs. If you have any questions for us why not email, or speak to any our experienced team http://www.centreforcomphealth.co.uk/contact-us.html