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Researcher takes part in £1.8m arthritis study

Wednesday 12 July 2017

A University of Salford researcher is part of a team who have been awarded £1.8m as part of a study  to tackle rheumatoid arthritis.

Dr Anita Williams has joined the team which is led by Professor Martijn Steultjens and Dr Gordon Hendry at Glasgow Caledonian University with other partners being Keele University,King’s College London and the University of Glasgow and has been awarded funding by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Technology Assessment (HTA) programme.

The five year study aims to examine the effectiveness of a new way of improving and maintaining walking ability inpeople who suffer from the painful and disabling symptoms of early rheumatoid arthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease that attacks multiple joints throughout the body. More than 90% of people with rheumatoid arthritis develop symptoms in the foot and ankle,with resulting difficulties in walking. Many people with rheumatoid arthritis are unable to walk far or fast, and often struggle with mobility tasks such as climbing stairs and walking on uneven ground.

During the first two years of diagnosis, patients usually receive medication to control inflammation and maybe referred for physiotherapy and/or podiatry for stretching and strengthening exercises and insoles. While some patients improve, many continue to suffer from foot pain, walking difficulties and problems performing daily activities.

The GREAT study (Gait Rehabilitation in Early Arthritis Trial) will take the form of an initial feasibility study involving patients from NHS regions in Scotland and England to fine-tune the gait rehabilitation intervention package and to identify the best way to measure its effectiveness, followed by a larger randomised controlled trial to investigate whether gait rehabilitation adds benefits to usual care and to establish whether or not gait rehabilitation should be offered to all people with early rheumatoid arthritis.

Dr Anita Williams, Reader in Qualitative Health Science at the University of Salford will be focussing on the users experiences of the intervention. She said: “It is important to ascertain what the patients experiences are in order to develop the intervention further and also ensure that it is an acceptable intervention in the context of patient lives and daily routines."