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New help for millions of people with low back pain

New NICE guidance for the NHS on the most effective way to treat low back pain will benefit millions of people in the UK who seek help from their GP about this condition every year. It will mean a consistent approach nationwide for the one in three adults in the UK who is affected.

‘Early management of persistent non-specific low back pain' is for people who have been in pain for more than 6 weeks but less than a year. Although low back pain is difficult to ‘cure', NICE emphasises the importance of keeping as physically active as possible.

In addition, the NHS should offer one of the following: an exercise programme, manual therapy (such as physiotherapy or osteopathy) or acupuncture. If this does not lead to an improvement, another of these options should be considered.

People who are still in considerable discomfort after at least one less intensive treatment session should be offered a combined programme of intensive exercise and psychological support.

NICE advises against injections into the back or taking an X-ray of the lumbar spine for non-specific low back pain.

Dr Dries Hettinga, Head of Policy and Research at BackCare (the charity for healthier backs) and a patient representative on the group that developed the guideline, describes it as “an important step forward in raising the standards of care for people with low back pain”.

Professor Peter Littlejohns, NICE Clinical and Public Health Director, said: “It's good news that the NHS now has evidence-based guidance on how to treat the condition effectively… for the first time, we now have the means for a consistent national approach.”

‘Early management of persistent non-specific low back pain' is available at www.nice.org.uk/CG88

Issued: 20 July 2009

This page was last updated: 10 May 2010

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Accessibility | Cymraeg | Freedom of information | Vision Impaired | Contact Us | Glossary | Data protection | Copyright | Disclaimer | Terms and conditions

Copyright 2014 National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. All rights reserved.