JOURNAL ARTICLE

Patient outcomes and experiences of an acupuncture and self-care service for persistent low back pain in the NHS: a mixed methods approach

Anna Cheshire, Marie Polley, David Peters, Damien Ridge
BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2013, 13: 300
24180515

BACKGROUND: Supported self-management, acupuncture and information can help reduce the symptoms of low back pain. These approaches are currently recommended by NICE guidance as treatment options for patients with persistent low back pain. However, there has been no previous evaluation of a service providing them together for this common problem. The purpose of this service evaluation was to report patient outcomes and experiences of the Beating Back Pain Service (BBPS), a pilot service based in a primary and community care setting, delivering acupuncture, self-management and information to patients with chronic low back pain.

METHODS: Patients completed a questionnaire at three time points: pre-BBPS, immediately post-BBPS and three months post-BBPS. Outcome measures included the Bournemouth Questionnaire (measuring musculoskeletal, MSK, problems), EuroQoL-5D (measuring quality of life), Pain and Self-efficacy Questionnaire, and additional questions on medication use, physical activity, understanding of pain and positive well-being. Additionally, the STarT Back (measuring risk of developing chronic pain) was collected at BBPS information sessions. Non-parametric tests were used to evaluate pre- and post- variables. Questionnaires also collected qualitative data (open-text responses) regarding patient views and experiences of the BBPS, which were analysed using thematic analysis.

RESULTS: 80 (out of 108) patients who attended the initial BBPS information session agreed to participate in the service evaluation (mean age 47 years, 65% female). 65 patients attended subsequent BBPS acupuncture and/or self-management sessions and were asked to complete post-treatment questionnaires; complete datasets were available for 61 patients.There were statistically significant improvements over time for pain (p <0.0001), quality of life (p = 0.006), understanding of pain (p <0.001), physical activity (p = 0.047) and relaxation (p = 0.012). Post-hoc analysis revealed that scores improved between baseline and post-treatment, these improvements were maintained at 3-month follow-up (except relaxation). Patients receiving a combination of acupuncture and self-management sessions produced the most positive results. Patient satisfaction with the BBPS was high.

CONCLUSIONS: The BBPS provided a MSK pain management service that many patients found effective and valuable. Combining self-management with acupuncture was found to be particularly effective, although further consideration is required regarding how best to engage patients in self-management.

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