Versus Arthritis and the British Society for Rheumatology have awarded a £52,000 (about $63,600) grant to researchers at University of Aberdeen to study how the quarantine imposed by COVID-19 is affecting people with fibromyalgia and other chronic pain conditions.
Getting regular exercise and maintaining a positive outlook are important to overall health, and for proper functioning of muscles, bones, and joints. But the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing people around the world to stay at home, to cope with anxiety in isolation, and limiting physical activity.
Understanding how people with musculoskeletal and chronic pain conditions are dealing with these challenges is the researchers’ goal.
“The ability to take exercise is likely to have been restricted while mental health is likely to be affected by the anxiety around the pandemic generally, together with concerns about one’s own health as well as the effects of social isolation,” Gary Macfarlane, a professor at the University of Aberdeen, in Scotland, and the study’s leader, said in a press release.
Anxiety associated with the outbreak is not limited to the disease itself, but also to changes in work habits — such as having to adapt to working at home or to losing a job — and constraints in access to healthcare.
“In terms of their care, patients will have experienced a radical re-organisation of their healthcare with almost all consultations moving online,” Macfarlane said. “As a result, there will be reductions in access to some services, such as physiotherapy, and procedures, such as injections, just at a time when patient need may be greatest.”
A total of 2,000 people across the U.K., many known already to the research team, will be sent a questionnaire focusing on their current health status and experiences during the lockdown. Some will later be asked to undergo a more detailed interview.
Results may also encourage discussion about how to integrate telehealth appointments into routine healthcare for patients in the U.K.
“The study will allow us to understand the consequences of the lockdown for people with long-term conditions and how their health may have been affected. It will also feed into discussions about how virtual consultations may be part of regular NHS [National Health Service] healthcare in the future,” Macfarlane said.
Added Stephen Simpson, PhD, director of research at Versus Arthritis, a nonprofit organization: “We’re delighted to support the extension of this work by Professor Macfarlane and colleagues to collect COVID impact data.
“This study will help us better understand the impact lockdown is having for people with musculoskeletal conditions, and allow us to improve healthcare and the management of these conditions. It is a great example of how research is adapting to meet the needs of people during the pandemic,” Simpson said.