A new approach to treating joint pain

Dr Nicola Walsh from the Centre for Health and Clinical Research is working to find more effective ways for patients to manage chronic degenerative joint pain.

Around 8 million people over 50 years old in the UK have some sort of disabling chronic degenerative joint pain. This population is increasing and placing ever greater demands on health services. Dr Nicola Walsh of UWE’s Centre for Health and Clinical Research is looking to find more cost-effective ways of tackling this by encouraging long-term self-management that reduces the need to seek professional healthcare input, and helps patients to cope with their disease more effectively.

“Older people with chronic degenerative joint pain such as osteoarthritis are not considered a priority, in fact these conditions are often incorrectly seen as an inevitable consequence of aging that people just have to live with” Nicola says. “But as our population gets older and heavier it is exactly this group that are going to place more and more demands on health and social care services. Patients are offered very little currently, which isn’t acceptable particularly as people are not only living longer but expected to work later in life.”

Nicola’s research, funded by Arthritis Research UK and the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy Charitable Trust, is investigating the potential for community-based care delivered by trained exercise practitioners. In partnership with Professor Mike Hurley at St George’s, University of London, Nicola has developed an exercise and self-management programme for people with chronic knee pain, delivered by a physiotherapist based in the primary care service.

The programme has already been adopted in National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines on osteoarthritis care and been implemented as standard care in several physiotherapy departments in England and Northern Ireland.  “We believe our new approach has the potential to make a significant impact, particularly over the next few years as GP consortia become increasingly responsible for healthcare commission.”

For more information contact Dr Nicola Walsh

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