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11 January 2012

Patients to benefit from new research into painful leg condition


Scientists in Sheffield have been awarded an important grant to help research a new way of treating patients with intermittent claudication - a condition in which patients get pain in their legs when walking a short distance.Patient Rev Reg Davies

A team of researchers led by Professor Jonathan Beard, of the Sheffield Vascular Institute, part of Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, have been given a total of £70,000 to see if using a technique called ‘Nordic pole walking’ can help these patients to walk further with less pain. The study will be carried out in partnership between the Sheffield Vascular Institute and STEPS Physiotherapy and Circulation Clinic.

The funding includes £17,000 from the British Heart Foundation, £29,000 from the Private Physiotherapy Education Foundation and £24,000 from the Sheffield Vascular Research Fund.

The research team will study 50 patients to analyse the effects of using Nordic poles for at least 30 minutes, three times a week over a three month period. The poles, popular in Scandinavia, are similar to ski poles but generally lighter and shorter. The participants will be measured on how far they can walk, both with and without the aid of the poles, at the beginning and end of the three month period.

Once completed, the findings of the study will be used to decide whether larger numbers of patients can be aided by Nordic pole walking. If this is the case, further funding will be sought for a larger multi-centre national trial.

Professor Jonathan Beard, Consultant Vascular Surgeon, said: “We are most grateful to our funders for enabling us to start this study, as it will allow us to carry out important research that could benefit thousands of patients. Intermittent claudication is a disabling condition that can significantly reduce a person’s quality of life. Thanks to these grants, we can now fully evaluate the effectiveness of Nordic pole walking.”

Intermittent Claudication is a cramping pain felt in the calf, thigh or buttock during walking or other exercise, due to poor circulation. It affects up to 10% of people aged over 65 in developed countries, and is caused by risk factors such as diabetes, high cholesterol, smoking and lack of physical activity.

Reverend Reg Davies from Doncaster is one patient who is taking part in the study. In his first assessment Reg managed to walk 50% further with walking poles than without. Both his heart rate and his walking speed were faster, his posture was better, and although he worked harder, he felt that it was easier. This meant that he could benefit from a higher level of exercise, which will help his condition.

Reg said: “I have suffered with intermittent claudication for several years and it can be quite debilitating. However, when I started using poles I felt as though I was widening my strides and I was able to walk for longer. I’m really pleased to be taking part in this trial.”

Clare Spafford, Research Physiotherapist, said: “This is a follow up study of a pilot Clare Oakley and Professor Beard did four years ago with Nordic poles. The pilot study showed that all the patients were able to walk considerably further and exercise more vigorously whilst using the poles.

“We hope that if we can prove that using Nordic poles is more effective for these patients, giving them a better workout, improving their fitness and relieving their pain, then one day the activity can be prescribed by GPs. Of course, we have to wait to see what the study shows.”

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