People with bone, joint and muscle pain saw their symptoms worsen during lockdown – according to new research from the University of East Anglia published in Rheumatology Advances in Practice.

The majority of people with musculoskeletal pain reported increased symptoms during lockdown measures designed to stop the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. Those who experienced most social isolation and loneliness were less likely to access healthcare.

The findings are the result of a survey of more than 600 people across the UK to see how people with bone, joint and muscle pain coped in lockdown.

The study was led by Dr Toby Smith, from UEA’s School of Health Sciences, and Prof Alex MacGregor, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, a media release from University of East Anglia notes.

A Major Cause of Disability

“Our results show that the coronavirus pandemic is a major challenge to people’s health and well-being, both to young and older people. When lockdown happened, we were worried that this may become a much greater problem – particularly for those with bone, joint and muscle pain.

“We wanted to know how the new restrictions might be affect pain, and better-understand who is most at risk of experiencing flare-ups, or reduced wellbeing due to social isolation and loneliness.”

— Dr Toby Smith

The team launched an online survey in late April, 5 weeks after the start of lockdown in a group of 678 patients with a range of musculoskeletal diseases – to see how the restrictions impacted their well-being and ability to access healthcare.

“We found that the majority of survey participants, just over 53 percent, reported that their musculoskeletal symptoms had worsened since the start of lockdown. A third of patients reported needing to access either their GP or hospital rheumatology department. As might be expected, those who accessed healthcare reported significantly greater pain, stiffness and poorer general health.

“Most respondents, just over 88 percent, reported little difficulty accessing medication, but 44 percent of needed the assistance of others to do this.

“Despite the swift transformations in the configuration of healthcare that have taken place, patients have in the main been able to access primary care and hospital rheumatology departments. However, those with higher levels of social isolation access healthcare the least.

“Should further isolation measures need to be enforced as we have seen in some part of the UK as the pandemic continues, particular efforts should be made to protect and support the socially isolated as a vulnerable group. Healthcare providers should reach out to individual patients who do not come forward for advice, and who might be silently struggling with their disease.”

— Prof Alex MacGregor

[Source(s): University of East Anglia, EurekAlert]

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