National Complementary Therapy Week 20th – 25th March 2023 is upon us.
Myofascial release is one of many complementary therapies and is particularly effective for the treatment of chronic pain. This being the case you may wonder why it is not offered on the NHS along with physiotherapy, osteopathy and chiropractic.
The answer is in part due to the significant advances made in medical treatments in the mid 20th century. This included antibiotics, vaccines and advanced surgical techniques. Significantly these saved many lives but they also led to a dismissal of more traditional and natural approaches to care which were grouped together under the banner of complementary therapies.
Keen to guide people towards the benefits of their new breakthroughs, the medical profession dismissed all complementary therapies wholesale as ineffective, unproven and even fraudulent. The subjective nature of the complementary therapy experience meant it was virtually impossible to measure through the randomised controlled trials that had become the gold standard medical measurement of success. The British Medical Association (BMA) described complementary therapies as ‘a flight from science’ and they were considered as nothing more than an indulgence for the medically uneducated.
This all changed in 1982 when Prince Charles, then president of the BMA, challenged them to end their hostility towards complementary therapies and consider that there may sometimes be a valid holistic alternative to the increasingly fragmented specialisms of modern medicine.
Since then conventional attitudes have thawed somewhat. In 2000 the Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology recommended that more research into the effectiveness of complementary therapies was needed. Government focus then led to the creation of the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC) in 2005.
The purpose of the CNHC is to protect the public by providing the only independent UK register of complementary healthcare practitioners. The CNHC register is accredited by the Professional Standards Authority (PCA) for Health and Social Care, an independent body accountable to Parliament. The CNHC also lobbies government and organisations for the appropriate use of complementary healthcare to help reduce pressure on the NHS. It supports the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in its publication of guidelines for the use of complementary therapies in specific medical cases such as low back pain and Parkinson’s disease.
However despite all of these advances in the standing of complementary therapies they still remain in a medical no-man’s land where they are regarded as ‘helpful’ by parts of the NHS but not recognised within the NHS framework for treatment.
The reason remains the Catch 22 issue that complementary therapies don’t fit neatly into the random controlled trial model of medicine, and medicine is reluctant to recognise other valid trial models such as case studies or questionnaires. Until they do, complementary therapies remain medically unproven and unregulated.
This means that GPs cannot prescribe or refer people to complementary therapies; the therapies are not recognised by most private health insurers; and people must therefore pay privately for these services. It remains to be seen whether the social prescribing initiative launched by Public Health England last year will include complementary therapies in future.
National Complementary Therapy Week 2023 aims to further increase awareness of this sector. As a complementary therapy provider we welcome this and hope that one day we can be included in the NHS healthcare plan for all chronic pain patients.
This would be a major step forwards and we would no longer be forced to explain to potential clients why they’ve never heard of myofascial release before, why they can’t claim from their insurer, or why their GP has dismissed our therapy as marginal.
In the meantime if you want to help further the acceptance of complementary therapies into the NHS why not lobby your private health insurer (if you have one) or better still your MP.