University of Aberdeen: Experience of arm pain needed to help shape new research

The research is open to people with a range of complaints including hand and thumb osteoarthritis, tendonitis, tennis and golfers’ elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome and non-specific arm pain – previously termed repetitive strain injury.

Musculoskeletal diseases such as these conditions affect an estimated 10 million people across the UK, causing more disability than either heart disease or cancer.

Researchers at the University of Aberdeen, University of Leeds Faculty of Medicine and Health, Keele University School of Medicine and Impact Accelerator Unit, and the University of Southampton will work in collaboration with people living with these conditions to design, develop and test a new online programme. It will feature support, information, and a tailored, progressive exercise plan, to guide people in managing their condition.

Lead researcher at the University of Aberdeen, Gary Macfarlane, Professor of Epidemiology said: “We have previously shown the benefits, amongst people with arm pain, of keeping the arm mobile rather than resting the arm while they await physiotherapy. This work builds on that in developing a tailored and supported exercise programme to help people with arm pain manage their condition and lessen its impact on their quality of life.

“There are currently few treatment options, with little evidence for long-term benefit. The best approach to managing these conditions therefore remains uncertain.

“The design of our new resource will be guided by expertise through lived experience, ensuring that the diverse supportive needs of people living with this range of conditions are met.”

The six-year research project, titled Digital – My Arm Pain Programme (D-MAPP), is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), the research partner of the NHS, public health and social care, and the charity Versus Arthritis.

Dr Neha Issar Brown, Director of Research at Versus Arthritis, said: “Pain is complex and impacts every aspect of your life. People with musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions like arthritis often need more than just medication. They need support with mental health, sleep, mobility, exercise, self-management tools and much more. However, finding the right information and support you need can be difficult.

“Being guided by the lived experience of people with MSK conditions means the platform will be much better placed in enabling people to manage their pain in a way that works for them, by giving access to expert advice and support from the comfort of home.”

Both people with a musculoskeletal condition of the hand or arm, and healthcare professionals with experience in treating these conditions, are invited to take part in co-creating and testing the D-MAPP website.

They will be invited to take part in a survey study, small group discussions and interviews. They can then support the researchers to design the final online programme, which will be tested out on a larger scale.

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