Spinal manipulation and acupuncture can be helpful in reducing the symptoms of musculoskeletal (MSK) pain. Both approaches are currently recommended by NICE as treatment options for patients with persistent low back pain. However, there has been no previous evaluation of a GP service using them together for MSK pain. The purpose of this study was to evaluate acceptability and outcomes for an osteopathy and acupuncture service (delivered by complementary therapy practitioners) for patients with MSK problems provided within a General Practice.
Patients were asked to complete a questionnaire before and after their course of treatment. Outcome measures included the Bournemouth Questionnaire (measuring MSK problems), EuroQoL-5D (measuring quality of life), medication use, physical activity and general well-being. Non-parametric tests were used to compare pre- and post- treatment variables. Qualitative data, regarding participants' views on the service, were collected from patients via a service survey and healthcare professionals via interviews. Qualitative data were analysed using thematic analysis.
123 adults with MSK problems were referred into the service (79 female and 44 male, mean age 49 years). Complete patient questionnaire data sets (pre- and post- treatment) were available for 102 participants; 91 completed a service survey. All healthcare professionals involved in the service participated in interviews including all seven GPs and the administration manager at the practice, as well as the three acupuncture/osteopathy practitioners. Patient outcomes: comparisons between pre and post-treatment revealed a statistically significant improvement in MSK pain (p<0.0001) and quality of life (p<0.0001), and a statistically significant reduction in medication use (p<0.0001). Qualitative analysis found that patients reported improvements in their MSK pain, mobility, other physical health conditions, well-being and self-management of their MSK problem. Acceptability of the service: overall patients and healthcare professionals were satisfied with the service and its provision within the Practice. Patients reported wanting increased appointment availability and flexibility, and more sessions. Complementary therapy practitioners reported finding the high number of referrals of chronic patients challenging, and wanting increased communication with GPs.
Provision of acupuncture and osteopathy for MSK pain is achievable in General Practice. A GP surgery can quickly adapt to incorporate complementary therapy provided key principles are followed.