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Patients may Be denied effective treatment for low back pain in the UK

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) are an advisory body which advise medical practitioners in the UK. NICE issue so called evidence based guidelines which advise on treatment protocols for most medical conditions including low back pain. Although UK based, practitioners including physiotherapists in other countries consult the guidelines.

The guideline on the treatment of low back pain (CG88) published in 2009 included medical acupuncture for persistent non specific low back pain. This meant that medical acupuncture could be offered by the NHS and as a result many patients would have benefited from this effective and safe form of treatment.

The soon to be updated version which will be published in September 2016 may well exclude medical acupuncture unless a petition and intervention from experts in the field of acupuncture research and interpretation can intervene.

Why is medical acupuncture to be excluded?

In a nutshell, it all boils down the faulty notion that there is such a thing as an acupuncture point and that if we miss this point, we are not doing ‘real’ acupuncture and the effect must be entirely placebo or expectation based.

Dr. Mike Cummings, medical director at the British Medical Acupuncture Society discusses this point far better than I possibly could in this interesting article http://blogs.bmj.com/aim/2016/04/04/nice-musings-on-heterogeneity/

Numerous experimental studies have shown and argued this logic to be flawed, but until those at NICE can be convinced that acupuncture will have a specific physiological effect no matter where the needle is inserted, they will still place a reliance on the results of randomised controlled trials which are not at all well suited to investigate the efficacy and effectiveness of medical acupuncture.

It is also a shame that patient preferences and the clinical experience of medical acupuncture practitioners have also not been considered in the drafting of the new guidelines, which would I am sure distress Mr. Sackett, who introduced the concept of evidence based medicine many years ago.

So what if medical acupuncture is excluded from the new NICE guidelines for low back pain? More drug therapy? More overburdened NHS physiotherapy departments offering manual therapy and exercise? More surgery? More people in pain?

If you have been helped by medical acupuncture treatment and found it effective, please sign this petition...

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