Currently eight million people in the UK suffer from long-term back pain which costs the UK around £12 billion every year and treatment often provides little pain relief

Recent research by the University of Westminster, funded by the Barcapel Foundation, and carried out at the Victoria Medical Centre, has shown that spinal manipulation and acupuncture can help to significantly reduce the symptoms of musculoskeletal (MSK) pain, including lower back and neck pain.

The research undertaken by a team at the University, working alongside a group of GPs, found that there was a high demand for help in dealing with pain and mobility problems.  Many patients said their medication had not worked well enough for them, and that there were long waiting times for NHS physiotherapy.

The University of Westminster research found that providing patients with choices of spinal manipulation and acupuncture was an effective way of reducing the pain and increasing the patient’s quality of life, whilst reducing reliance on medication.  Over half of the patients surveyed following treatment said that the pain interfered less and that they were able to carry out their everyday activities feeling more able to cope.  

Professor David Peters, who designed the pain service said: “The practice’s Patient Group had been saying for some time that they needed more than just medication for MSK pain. So they were obviously willing to try something different.  We weren’t sure if GPs would really be willing to send patients for these new treatments, yet within a few months of opening up, we had more GP referrals than we could deal with.”

Professor Damien Ridge, who led the evaluation, said: “With these results we have shown that an effective acupuncture and osteopathy service for MSK pain can be developed successfully in an NHS GP setting in a short space of time.  We found that GPs can integrate such approaches relatively easily and the treatments not only reduce pain, but patients also benefit from reduced distress and an improved quality of life.”

Dr Susan Rankin, a GP and partner at the Victoria Medical Centre, said: “Within weeks of starting out with the new service, we realised that something special was going on.  Definitely there was a lot of GP enthusiasm for it, and patients have been thrilled with the results.  You can’t ask for more than that!”

Previous evidence suggested osteopathy and acupuncture ought to help low back pain, but it had not yet been established how they would work when introduced together into a real life GP practice.

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