ARTHRITIS patients in York are being recruited to take part in a major new study on the effectiveness of acupuncture and Alexander technique lessons in alleviating pain.

The University of York will undertake the £719,00 three-year study, funded by the Arthritis Research UK, to understand whether the techniques could have more of a place in helping the NHS treat chronic neck pain.

Research will address whether the treatments are clinical and cost effective, as well as safety issues, and will be led by Dr Hugh MacPherson, from the university’s department of health sciences.

Dr MacPherson, a senior research fellow 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.

“Our research will provide further data which will help patients, practitioners, providers and policy-makers make informed choices about care. 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.”

Alexander lessons are designed to help people improve their posture, co-ordination and balance, while reducing unwanted responses which can cause or aggravate pain and stress.

Along with acupuncture, the treatment has been shown to improve back pain and offer value for money over the long term.

Acupuncture is recommended for chronic back pain by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).

The trial at the University of York should help researchers compare the clinical and cost effectiveness of acupuncture and Alexander technique lessons 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. They will be asked about pain levels and for their opinions on the care received.