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Health board exercise regime helping osteoarthritis sufferers "ESCAPE Pain"

Tailored exercise regimes are helping osteoarthritis sufferers in Rhyl reduce the debilitating pain associated with the condition.

Patients with the condition in their knees and hips are already benefiting from the six-week long ESCAPE Pain course, which is available by referral through people’s GPs or a physiotherapist.

The sessions, at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, Rhyl, are designed to use targeted exercises to increase mobility and reduce reliance on prescription drugs.

More than nine million people in the UK have their lives blighted by the pain of osteoarthritis - and the numbers are rising as the population lives longer.

Other people may have chronic joint pain, a very similar condition, which tends to be treated in the same way.

So giving them the means to self-manage their pain through exercise is becoming a key component of care, which can give patients more mobility for longer if adhered to.

The demographics of North Wales, with a higher than average number of people aged over 65 years, means there’s a large segment of the population with arthritic knees and hips.

Hilary Powell, a senior lead physiotherapist within Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, has been heartened by the early results of the courses.

She said: “It lets patients have ownership of the issues they have, rather than being a hostage to them.

“They record their visits and comment how they feel. Then we look at setting realistic goals in terms of how they are going to go forward with their exercises.

“At the halfway point we look at what’s been achieved and look at what goals need to be set for the next stage.”

Participants can access online resources through their individual account, which gives them reminders and exercise videos and allows them to monitor their progress.

One of the many benefits of doing the course is exercises are “functional”, meaning patients can carry on the exercises themselves in their home.

The advantage of helping keep people more mobile has a host of other health benefits, both physical and mental.

There is strong evidence to support the benefits of education and participation in regular exercise, for the self-management of osteoarthritis.

Although the pandemic has curtailed the number of people able to access the course, there are plans to open up the service to more people.

John Willis does some of his exercises at the class in Rhyl

John Willis, from Rhyl, is 85 years old and started have pain in his right knee around two years ago. He said it had stopped him going on walks and tending to his garden and also “affected his confidence”.

He said: “The ESCAPE Pain course has been quite beneficial. You appreciate the exercises and it’s made me more active.

“I still can’t walk very far but the pain is more manageable. When you go to a doctor they can’t do much for it – a tube of cream or a pot of pills.

“The exercises have definitely increased the mobility of my knee and I do as many exercises at home as I can.

“If someone can get on a course then I would recommend it. It would be great to extend it to more people.

“It’s much better than going and having your knee replaced.”

*ESCAPE stands for Enabling Self-management and Coping with Arthritic Pain through Exercise.

Patients attend 12 sessions over a six-week period, committing to two sessions each week. Each session consists of 20 minutes of discussion and 40 minutes of exercise.

The program follows core recommendations of exercise and education for the management of osteoarthritis and is supported by the Chartered Society of Physiotherpay, Versus Arthritis, and the British Society of Rheumatology.