If you’ve ever experienced long-running knee pain, you’ll know how awful it can be. Loss of movement is one thing, but nothing feels quite so overwhelming as pain – not when it keeps nagging away at you and won’t disappear.
Knowing that many other people are in the same boat – estimates suggest 9 million people in the UK suffer from chronic joint pain – is only so much comfort. When you’re battling knee pain, it can easily feel like you’re completely on your own.
Fortunately, that doesn’t have to be the case. The resources for managing chronic pain have been getting better and better in recent years. One example we like is ESCAPE-pain, a course that aims to cut through the confusion and teach people how to cope with, and reduce, their joint pain.
Here’s a quick review of how it works.
What is it?
ESCAPE-pain is actually an acronym: it stands for “Enabling Self-management and Coping with Arthritic Pain through Exercise.” That’s it in a nutshell. It’s a short course designed to give people with chronic joint pain the tools to manage their problem. “The programme will help you have less pain and learn to cope with your knee pain better,” they explain.
Who’s behind it?
The course was developed by Mike Hurley, Professor of Rehabilitation Science at London’s Kingston University. He originally created it just for knees, but it’s now available for hip and back-related pain too. ESCAPE-pain has endorsements from a pretty impressive range of health bodies, including NICE, the NHS and Versus Arthritis. It’s backed by the charity Orthopaedic Research UK.
How does it work?
They run it as a group class, which usually takes place twice a week for six weeks – so 12 sessions in total. Each class starts with a 15-20min discussion around a joint pain topic. You then go into a circuit-style exercise session, led by a physio or exercise specialist. The expert can help you tailor the exercises for your own particular situation, so you can work on them again at home. The course begins and ends with a questionnaire, so you can review your progress over the six weeks.
Do courses like this actually make a difference?
There’s good evidence to say they can make a significant difference when it comes to managing pain. ESCAPE-pain promotes itself as an “evidence-based” programme. They back this up with a number of scientific studies, which show the course can help patients to reduce pain, improve function, and develop a better understanding of the “psychosocial consequences” of pain. They say 90% of participants declare themselves satisfied with the service, and are more optimistic after completing it.
What else is helpful about it?
There are several reasons why we think ESCAPE-pain could be very useful for patients who are struggling with chronic knee pain:
Practical – the course is very pragmatic; it’s focused on offering advice you can put into practice
Individualised – though you learn in a group, they can help you tailor it to your own knee pain
Holistic – the topics range from nutrition to setting personal goals, managing flare-ups and advice for how to stay positive when the pain is getting you down
The setting is something else we like about the course. Rather like NCT classes for expectant parents, doing it in a group gives you peers who are going through the same experiences. That can be very powerful when it comes to motivation, positive thinking – and just feeling understood.
How do you join a course?
A simple way is to visit the “find a local class” section of the official ESCAPE-pain website. Search the map and click on the stars to pull up details for each venue (NB you’ll need to accept cookies to use this feature). As the website explains, many classes were paused during COVID, but plenty are now coming back online – either in physical venues or as virtual classes via Teams, Zoom and so on. Bear in mind that you’ll need a referral from a GP or health professional for some courses – though others are available by self-referral.
Keen to learn more? You might find these resources helpful…
Read about the research and evidence behind the programme [official website]
Check out our knee pain blog: “6 simple sleep tips for arthritic knee pain”
Are you suffering from persistent knee pain? If so, it’s important to have it properly investigated. You can do that here in the clinic by booking an appointment with us. We’ll make sure you’re seen, examined and treated as soon as possible.
(Chris Bailey Orthopaedics is not personally associated with ESCAPE-pain and the views expressed here are our own. Please note that we aren’t responsible for the content of external websites. For full details of the ESCAPE-pain programme, see https://escape-pain.org)