Alternative therapies for alleviating chronic neck pain to be tested

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A TRIAL by experts in Yorkshire will test the effectiveness of two alternative therapies in alleviating chronic neck pain.

The ailment costs the UK hundreds of millions of pounds each year but researchers from York University aim to examine acupuncture and Alexander Technique lessons as alternative treatment options.

Acupuncture involves the insertion of fine needles to ease stiffness, tension and pain. Alexander lessons help people to improve their muscle activity, coordination and balance.

Both interventions have been shown to improve back pain and offer value for money while acupuncture is recommended for back pain by Government experts.

In a three-year Arthritis Research UK-funded trial, 450 people with chronic neck pain will help researchers compare the clinical and cost effectiveness of the techniques with the conventional care provided by GPs.

Patients will be recruited from around 20 GP practices in York, Sheffield, Leeds and Manchester and their progress will be followed over a 12 month-period.

The £719,000 study, which will address clinical and cost effectiveness as well as safety issues, will be led by Hugh MacPherson from the Department of Health Sciences.

Dr MacPherson said: “Despite decades of research, few advances have been made in treating chronic neck pain. While there is already some evidence suggesting that acupuncture and Alexander Technique lessons might benefit patients, it is insufficient for a definite conclusion.

“If the evidence from the new trial justifies it, then both interventions should be offered routinely as referral options to patients within the NHS, which would mean that patients would no longer have to pay for these interventions themselves.”