27/02/2003

UU research set to help sufferers of chronic disease

New research at the University of Ulster is set to offer hope to suffers of a life-crippling disease that affects millions of women worldwide.

The University is spearheading one of largest studies ever into the treatment of Fibromyalgia, a distressing chronic pain syndrome that affects 3% of women across the globe. In Northern Ireland alone there are many thousands of sufferers, but there is no known cure for the disease.

Sufferers of Fibromyalgia endure extreme muscle pain and tenderness combined with overwhelming fatigue, sleeplessness and patients can also experience psychological problems such as anxiety and depression. As the condition develops many women find themselves unable to work or even carry out normal day-to-day activities.

In collaboration with the Royal Hospitals Trust, University College Dublin and the Mayo Clinic in the US, the University is launching a study that will combine pool-based exercises and a programme of patient education that aims to improve the quality of life for sufferers.

Research head Joseph McVeigh, a lecturer in Physiotherapy at the University of Ulster, said: “It is one of those Cinderella conditions which causes untold misery for patients and their families, but with this study, made possible by a research grant from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, hopefully we will be able to improve outcomes for patients in the future.”

The programme will involve sessions of pool-based exercises, two times per week for one month combined with group education sessions designed to improve patient awareness and self-management.

He added: "Although this intervention may not eliminate pain completely, we are hopeful that as a result of the programme patients will develop improved coping strategies as well as pain management and relaxation techniques. This, in combination with improved fitness and improved functional ability, should result in an improved quality of life for these patients.”

Margaret Peacock, Chairperson of The Northern Ireland Fibromyalgia Support Group said she was "absolutely delighted" at the news.

"We are hopeful that these new techniques will offer hope to the many sufferers of the condition,” she said.

(GMcG)

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