June 12, 2008 A new two week programme significantly reduces healthcare visits, pain scores and health distress in arthritis patients with chronic pain. Results were comparable to existing six week self-management programmes and the benefits of the programme were sustained for six months with improvements continuing up to a year later, according to researchers.
Devised by the UK charity Arthritis Care and pain specialists at Derriford Hospital, Plymouth, UK, the 'Challenging Pain' programme enrolled 186 patients into 18 workshop groups. The patients comprised a combination of family doctor and self referrals. Each workshop consisted of two half-day sessions on consecutive weeks, with tutorship on a range of pain management techniques, including relaxation, stress management and exercise, as well as strategies for managing fatigue.
The programme effectiveness was assessed by questionnaires and focus group discussions with the course participants at 6 and 12 month follow-up. Quantitative results using Wilcoxon signed rank test (a tool used to compare differences between measurements) indicated statistically significant reductions across pain scores (reduced by 7% at 6 months and by 14% at 12 months). GP visits (reduced by 17% at 6 months and by 23% at 12 months) and health distress (reduced by 15% at 6 months and by 31% at 12 months) and self-efficacy was improved (increased by 17% at 6 months and by 27% at 12 months). Qualitative reporting supported these results and showed that patients felt the programme to be beneficial. All results were sustained at 6 months follow up and continued to improve at 12 months.
Janet Cowlard, who led the study in conjunction with physicians at Derriford Hospital, said: "We devised this programme to try to ease the burden of chronic pain in patients with arthritis and other long-term pain conditions, whilst offering a faster and more cost effective management approach. Our new programme, which was offered free of charge to patients, equipped them with the practical skills and techniques to help combat their pain, whilst also giving them an empowering sense of control and confidence in their own disease management. Achieving sustained results 6 and 12 months after a short course offers great promise for both arthritis patients and healthcare providers alike. Arthritis Care has now begun a UK-wide rollout of the programme, and a similar roll-out is beginning in Australia. We are delighted to share our results at the international forum of EULAR, as centres across other countries might be similarly inspired by our results."
Most forms of arthritis are associated with pain that can be divided into two general categories: acute and chronic. Acute pain is temporary and commonly wanes as healing occurs, for example in the case of burns, cuts, and fractures. Chronic pain, however, such as that seen in people with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, ranges from mild to severe and may last weeks, months, years, or even a lifetime.
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