NICE Recommends Acupuncture

Here we take a look at why NICE recommends acupuncture, and summarise the evidence for its use.

NICE Recommends Acupuncture

NICE Recommends Acupuncture For Migraines, Back Pain and Tension-Type Headaches

Did you know that in the UK NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) recommends Acupuncture for the treatment of migraines, headaches and back pain on the NHS. Some GP practices offer integrated healthcare that includes acupuncture, but this is not yet commonplace. As an alternative, many people choose to go pay for acupuncture privately.

With over 3,000 members the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) is the UK’s largest regulatory body for practitioners of traditional acupuncture. The BAcC is a founder member of the Professional Standards Accredited Voluntary Register (AVR) and maintains high standards of training, safe practice and professional conduct.

Many company health insurance schemes will cover treatment provided by British Acupuncture Council members – we suggest you read the small print.

The following is a brief review of available evidence for the treatment of three common conditions with acupuncture.

Back Pain

Back pain can affect anyone at any age and most people will suffer from it at some point in their lives. It is the UK’s leading cause of disability and one of the main reasons for work-related sickness absence.

According to the Acupuncture Research Resource Centre, ‘research has shown that acupuncture is significantly better than no treatment and at least as good as (if not better than) standard medical care for back pain. It appears to be particularly useful as an adjunct to conventional care, for patients with more severe symptoms and for those wishing to avoid analgesic drugs’.

NICE clinical guideline 88 makes recommendations for the early management of persistent non-specific low back pain (ie pain that has lasted for more than 6 weeks, but for less than 12 months). Their recommendation is for up to 10 sessions of acupuncture over 12 weeks.

In addition to needle therapy, it is common for traditional acupuncturists to use cupping, moxa therapy (i.e. warming), auriculotherapy, adjunctive electrostimulation, dietary advice, massage and exercises according to the patient’s individual characteristics.


Migraine is a primary headache disorder manifesting as recurring attacks, usually lasting for 4 to 72 hours and involving pain of moderate to severe intensity (IHS 2004).

According to the Acupuncture Research Resource Centre, ‘research has shown that there have now been many controlled trials of acupuncture for migraine, with some large, high-quality ones in recent years. The results of the latest reviews are quite consistent: acupuncture is significantly better than no treatment/basic care for managing migraine, and appears to be at least as effective as prophylactic drug therapy, with few contraindications or unpleasant side effects’.

NICE Recommends Acupuncture

NICE Recommends Acupuncture For Migraines

According to the NICE clinical summary on migraines in adults, ‘evidence suggests that the addition of acupuncture to treatment of acute migraine attacks or to routine care is beneficial for at least 3 months, and that acupuncture is better than evidence-based prophylactic drug treatment’.

They recommend the use of acupuncture for up to 10 sessions over a course of 5 to 8 weeks as second-line prophylactic treatment. They also found that when 10 sessions are provided, acupuncture is more cost-effective to the NHS than no treatment.

Tension-Type Headaches

Tension-type headache is the term used for infrequent and frequent episodic, as well as chronic, tension-type headaches. They occur in up to around 80% of the UK adult population, and are more prevalent in women.

The Acupuncture Research Resource Centre states that ‘evidence from the most up-to-date and highest quality systematic review showed that there are clinically relevant benefits of adding acupuncture to routine care and also a statistical advantage of ‘true’ acupuncture over sham interventions’.

Although they go on to assert that current evidence is as yet insufficient to strongly support the use of acupuncture for treating tension-type headaches, NICE state that ‘because they found very little evidence to support the use of pharmacological prophylaxis, this evidence was sufficient to recommend its use’. Hence ‘a course of up to 10 sessions of acupuncture over 5–8 weeks is recommended.


The Acupuncture Pain

Acupuncture Research Resource Centre

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence

British Acupuncture Council

Look After Your Kidneys

Look after your kidneys – they are vital to good health. According to Chinese medicine the organs of the body are more than just the fleshy parts – they are viewed as a complete system having a number of vital regulatory functions.

Look After Your Kidneys

Look After Your Kidneys

For example, the kidneys look after growth, reproduction and development. They look after the lumbar back and the legs and of course govern the water functions of the body.

In general looking after your kidneys is vital to having a long and healthy life.

How do I know when my kidneys are weak?

When your kidneys are weak, the following symptoms can arise (even though a conventional kidney function test shows normal):-

  • Lower back weakness and pain, which may be worse when tired. This is often accompanied by sore knees
  • Night sweats leading to dizziness, insomnia a dry mouth and dark urine
  • Frequent urination, day or night
  • Impotence or low libido in men
  • Delayed periods (longer than 30 days) in women
  • Lack of energy and poor concentration and memory
  • Oedema, especially in the legs. Usually accompanied by feeling cold.

How Can I Look After My Kidneys?

  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Avoid overwork and get adequate rest. Find the right work-life balance.
  • Don’t overuse your back
  • Avoid excessive sexual activity
  • Avoid walking barefoot on cold floors (as exposure to cold in this way can impair kidney function)
  • Eat a diet rich in kidney nourishing foods (see below)

Kidney Nourishing Foods

Foods that can nourish your kidneys are often dark (or black) in colour. These can include black beans, black walnuts, but also foods from the sea such as seaweed, fish, kelp and sushi.

Finally don’t forget that your friendly British Acupuncture Council registered acupuncturist will be able to offer advice and treatment to benefit your kidneys.


Call 07969 41 3158