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Exploring new routes to self-managing chronic joint pain

12:00am | & Health

Chronic joint pain is a fact of daily life for many older people suffering from a range of long-term musculoskeletal conditions.

By far the most common form of joint disease is osteoarthritis, often referred to as “wear and tear arthritis”. Affecting at least eight million people in the UK, it causes stiffness, swelling and pain in and around the joints, often the weight-bearing joints such as the knees, hips and ankles. As its name suggest, these are the joints which begin to show signs of ‘wear and tear’ as you get older.

With an ageing population, long-term age-related conditions such as osteoarthritis are becoming far more prevalent and a significant issue for the NHS, yet many sufferers feel they are ‘short-changed’ when it comes to support in managing the condition ­– and the pain it causes.

Now, new initiatives are being developed and piloted to provide better support to people in self-managing their chronic joint pain. Writing on the NHS England website, Mike Hurley, from the London-based Health Innovation Network, outlines how one such scheme is providing better outcomes for patients with osteoarthritis.

A former Professor in Physiotherapy at King’s College, London, Mr Hurley is now Clinical Director for the Health Innovation Network’s Musculoskeletal Programme. He writes: “Patients with long-term conditions, such as osteoarthritis often tell us they feel GPs are unable to help; at best they are prescribed palliative medication, which they tell us they don’t like to take, and at worst they are told it is just part of ‘getting older’.

“Despite this, patients are unsure of where else to turn for advice and support. At the Health Innovation Network we have been focusing on helping people to self-manage their chronic joint pain and have piloted anew approach to managing osteoarthritis – the Joint Pain Advisor.”

Under this new scheme, patients with hip of knee osteoarthritis have up to four 30-minute face-to-face consultations with a specially trained Joint Pain Advisor (JPA). It begins with an assessment where they discuss their lifestyle, challenges and personal goals, then working with the JPA to develop a personalised care plan giving tailored advice and support for the self-management of osteoarthritis. Patients are then invited to attend follow-up reviews after three weeks, six-to-eight weeks and six months to assess progress and access further tailored support and advice.

So far, more than 500 patients have used the service and reported less pain, better function and higher activity levels. This has also led to fewer GP consultations and onward referrals.

“In our original study we used physiotherapists as Joint Pain Advisors, but recently we have worked with Health Trainers and Coaches,” said Mr Hurley. “We think that the Joint Pain Advisor could significantly reduce the cost of helping people with chronic joint pain.”

As more people need specialist help managing chronic joint pain, it is hoped schemes such as the Joint Pain Advisor will be rolled out in NHS Trusts across the UK. Of course, one of the most difficult and painful activities for people with osteoarthritis in the knees or hips is going up and down the stairs. The obvious self-management therapy in this situation is to install an Acorn stairlift, enabling you to glide smoothly up and down the stairs free from pain and in safety and comfort.

Acorn’s Medical Advisor Dr Hilary Jones said: “A stairlift is an essential accessory that so many of my own patients have benefited from in this situation. Suiting the exact needs of the individual it overcomes the barrier of whatever type of stairs are there, and is easy to operate.”

If you are considering a stairlift the first step is to arrange a free, no-obligation home survey, in which one of our experienced Acorn surveyors will assess your needs and your staircase before advising on the best type of stairlift for you. The surveyor will also provide a detailed quote, with no hidden extras and valid for a full 12 months, giving you plenty of time to decide.

Once you place an order, an Acorn Stairlift can be installed with no mess or fuss in just a few days, even on curved staircases thanks to our unique and award-winning FastTrack® stair rail system.

For more advice on various types of arthritis and ways to self-manage the condition, visit the Arthritis Research UK website by clicking here.

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