3 Jul 2023
‚ÄúI‚Äôve seen the expressions on people‚Äôs faces change, from a bit miserable to really happy‚ÄĚ ‚Äď life-changing research trials new treatment approach for debilitating spinal condition
A group of patients with a painful spinal condition are benefiting from a new programme of physiotherapist-led classes thanks to research.
The National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR)-funded Better Outcomes for Older People with Spinal Trouble (BOOST) study is testing a strength and conditioning programme to see if it is more effective than standard treatment for people with spinal stenosis.
The group receiving the treatment in North Devon say it has made a big difference to their quality of life, with improvements in physical and mental health and confidence.
Lumbar spinal stenosis is an age-related narrowing of the spinal canal, which places pressure on nerves and blood vessels causing pain and weakness in the lower back, buttocks, or legs. The condition can limit people‚Äôs ability to walk and stand and cause pain, which can make it harder to remain independent.
The latest phase of BOOST, which is supported by the NIHR Clinical Research Network South West Peninsula, is running at a number of sites nationwide, including North Devon District Hospital (NDDH), part of ¬ť∂Ļ”į ” University Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. It is aiming to find out if patients get the same benefit from the programme when it is part of real-world care as they did when it was tested under more controlled conditions ‚Äď a type of research known as an implementation study.
The team at NDDH recruited 12 people against an original target of 10 to trial the classes, which are delivered by NHS physiotherapists at CrossFit North Devon in Barnstaple.
James Rodger, Consultant Physiotherapist at NDDH is a Principal Investigator for BOOST. He said: ‚ÄúSome people with this condition can be quite vulnerable, struggling to get up from a chair, for example. Normally, physiotherapists would see them around three times as outpatients, and they would be given light repetitive exercise. But this is a series of 12 classes, and the goal is strength and conditioning.
‚ÄúBasically, it‚Äôs quite simple. We‚Äôve also encouraged them to take part in a walking program. I don‚Äôt think we‚Äôre making major physical changes in the short term, just trying to give the time and confidence to walk. It‚Äôs almost a case of giving them permission to try, and see what they can do.
‚ÄúSeeing how the intervention works in practice has challenged my beliefs. I actually expected less progress but they have really improved a lot in a short time. The study has had a significant cultural change on how classes are delivered for this group and others, and the team are moving forward to reflect this in class delivery.
‚ÄúThe setting has worked really well, and we‚Äôve found they really like the class environment. One of our participants is now even considering starting Crossfit, aged 72.‚ÄĚ
BOOST is sponsored by the University of Exeter, and conducted by a study team led by Professor Sallie Lamb, Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University‚Äôs Faculty of Health and Life Sciences. Professor Lamb said: ‚ÄúI am delighted to hear that the BOOST programme has had such a positive effect on this group of patients, benefiting them both physically and mentally. Spinal conditions can have a huge impact on quality of life, and finding ways to improve treatment can make a real difference. The BOOST project forms part of a body of world-leading research into rehabilitation here at Exeter, of which we are incredibly proud.‚ÄĚ
BOOST volunteer Pam Lee from Barnstaple said: ‚ÄúI think this has made us all more motivated to try and extend what we can do. For some people it has also just been a reason to get out of the house. Mentally and physically I think it‚Äôs been great, and there is a competitive element that has really motivated some of us.
‚ÄúI‚Äôve tried normal physio and it didn‚Äôt seem to do much for me, but with this I feel I‚Äôm getting better. I can walk a lot further than I could before.‚ÄĚ
Sue Smith from North Cornwall added: ‚ÄúThe improvement in my balance has been really amazing. Taking part in the trial has helped me feel more confident in myself.‚ÄĚ
Arie Hollenbach from Barnstaple said: ‚ÄúThis has made a big difference to me. I‚Äôm walking further now and not seizing up as much. It‚Äôs meant spending time and working in my allotment has become much more relaxing, and easier.‚ÄĚ
Ann Oakley from Barnstaple felt the social benefits of the classes were also significant: ‚ÄúIt has been fantastic to meet other people and get out and do something, it has done so much for me mentally. It‚Äôs helped me accept my situation and what I can and can‚Äôt do.
‚ÄúThe fact that everyone in the class has the same condition is really nice. I‚Äôve seen the expressions on people‚Äôs faces change, from a bit miserable to really happy.‚ÄĚ
Last updated: July 11, 2023