Many of you will be aware that NICE downgraded Acupuncture as a recommended treatment for Low Back Pain and Sciatica.This was not only a bit of a shock for us Acupuncture Practitioners and our Patients but also disappointing for anyone contemplating our treatments.

What is NICE?

It is the National Institute for Health Care Excellence.

It was set up in 1999 by the Government as an independent body to evaluate the quality and effectiveness of treatments that could be available on the NHS.

What you have to bear in mind is that in this situation there is a clash of approaches. Acupuncture  is based on an ancient science pretty much totally alien to western science, which is where NICE is applying its parameters.

However we have to abide by the verdict of NICE but fortunately there are amongst us those who are able to straddle both worlds –The Eastern Approach and the Western Approach.  Low Back Pain and Sciatica have many causes it is not just one problem.

It could range from a muscle strain, a ligament strain/tear to a herniated/prolapsed vertebral disc, or psychosomatic influences.

Whatever the actual symptoms and signs are  you will notice a difference in the Eastern and Western Approaches.The western mode seems to me to be somewhat split. You will have a condition that many people have and that is going to be treated. Often using drugs and surgery. It’s a case of find the culprit and removing it. This is very effective in treating symptoms- the so called “The Magic Bullet “. The person who has this condition does not get star billing.


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With Acupuncture, in keeping with other Eastern healing arts the person who is suffering the health probem is paramount. Treat the whole person symptoms and all.  Acupuncture in my experience is very good at alleviating symptoms of quite painful and debilitating problems but also of promoting a general sense of well being and optimism.

Positive results are attained by skill in diagnosis anmichelangelo-71282_640d treatment and rapport between practitioner and patient

I feel that running clinical trials comparing the use of traditional points and sham acupuncture is not going to give a true picture on whether it is useful and whether it should be recommended for the treatment of Low Back Pain and Sciatica.

Of course it is necessary to evaluate which forms of treatment are effective in helping to recover from this painful and debilitating disorder. However this latest attempt is flawed, not only in it’s primary set up  but according to a report on the British Acupuncture Council website it is flawed in it’s methodology. Check the blog below for a detailed view of the NICE trial and a criticism of its procedures. The suggestion of a conflict of interest I found disturbing and also the view of some that NICE has become the UK based arm of the pharmaceutical industry.

It is hoped that these guidelines will be changed when the judgement is reviewed in September.


If you or anyone you know has had back pain relief by Acupuncture it would be helpful to write to NICE and have your say.


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