Physiotherapists are being invited to take part in new research designed to help people with persistent musculoskeletal pain.
A pilot study will begin in 2010 into the effectiveness of group-based self-management courses, to be carried out by Barts hospital in London and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry and Warwick Medical School. Study manager Dawn Carnes said some patients repeatedly report pain to their physiotherapist that appears to have no serious pathological cause, such as tissue damage. She added that this is due to nervous systems becoming ‘hypersensitised’ and they become ‘hypervigiliant’ to it. The pilot study will look at the effectiveness of a group-based seven-week self-management course with an element of exercise and a large psychological or cognitive behavioural component. Dawn Carnes, who is a trained osteopath and has a PhD in chronic musculoskeletal pain management, said: ‘We feel that physiotherapists, osteopaths and chiropractors have a uniquely relevant background, training and skills base. We are looking for practitioners who are interested in the psychological elements in their job, in changing behaviour and motivating people to cope with their pain better and perform functional movement for everyday living.’ The pilot, which begins next January, will involve five courses, each requiring at least two facilitators, over roughly six months. About 30 trainers will also be needed for a larger study that is due to follow in 2011. Meanwhile, a study has found that physiotherapy students devote more study time to pain management than many other health professionals. The British Pain Society’s education special interest group looked at pain education in 19 different UK universities. Physio students had an average of 37.5 hours on pain management on the curriculum, while medical students only received 13 hours during their five-year course, nurses 10 hours, dentists 9.5 hours and midwives received just six hours. However, physios must not become complacent despite the study, according to Maggie Whittaker, lecturer in physiotherapy at the University of Essex, who helped carry out the research and warned: ‘Although physiotherapy students had the most hours devoted to pain content of the healthcare professions, it is our understanding of, and the application of, the knowledge of pain assessment and management that matters to our patients.’
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