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NICE endorses acupuncture for lower back pain

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The health watchdog has said the NHS should offer treatments such as acupuncture to lower back pain sufferers.

New advice from NICE says the treatment should be widely available on the NHS, but concedes that access is currently varied across England and Wales.

Other treatments recommended by NICE include a 12-week exercise programme for patients, manual therapy and a combined programme of physical and psychological treatment for those worst affected.

Tests such as X-rays, ultrasounds and MRI scans should only be used in in certain circumstances, the watchdog added.

It advises that using electrical machines such as TENS units and injecting therapeutic substances should be dropped and surgical intervention should be a last resort.

The latest guidelines relate to people suffering from persistent non-specific lower back pain, which persists for at least six weeks but less than a year. Those who have back pain for a specific reason are not covered by the advice.

Professor Martin Underwood, a GP who chaired the committee overseeing the advice, said back pain was the second most common complaint from patients at his Coventry surgery and added that he was excited by the latest guidance.

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