University of Leeds: Experience of arm pain needed for new research

People living with painful hand and arm conditions are invited to take part in research and help create a new online support platform for patients.

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.

“The resource’s design… will ensure that the diverse supportive needs of people living with this range of conditions are met.”

Professor Philip Conaghan, Medicine and Health
Researchers in Leeds’ Faculty of Medicine and Health, Keele University’s School of Medicine and Impact Accelerator Unit, University of Southampton and University of Aberdeen 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 Philip Conaghan, Professor of Musculoskeletal Medicine in Leeds’s Institute of Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Medicine, said: “Musculoskeletal diseases are common, chronic and disabling. Not only do they affect people physically, causing significant pain and disability, they also have a major impact on mental health and well-being. The symptoms and wider-reaching consequences can also impact upon people’s ability to function in their work, family and social lives.

“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.”

Complex conditions
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.”

Taking part in research
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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