Five researchers from Glasgow Caledonian University have launched an 18-month project investigating new ways to help people with leg pain known as intermittent claudication.

Intermittent claudication is the medical term for a painful ache in the legs of people with peripheral arterial disease (PAD) that usually disappears after a few minutes rest.

People with intermittent claudication are 40-45% less physically active, however, supervised exercise training is recommended for the condition but uptake is extremely low.

Now researchers are looking to find new ways to change that behaviour by gathering evidence from around the world about what works and what doesn’t as part of the Physical acTivity in people with InterMittent clAudication (OPTIMA) project.

Principal Investigator in the £221,551 National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)-funded study is GCU Physiotherapy Research Fellow Dr Ukachukwu Abaraogu, supported by Co-Investigators Professor Dawn Skelton, Dr Joanna McParland, Dr Philippa Dall and Dr Chris Seenan.

Dr Abaraogu explained: “Intermittent claudication is a common problem among older adults affecting about 3.2 million people in the UK who have a chronic painful condition called Background Peripheral Arterial Disease.

“This happens when the arteries in the legs become clogged, leading to pain, cramps or fatigue when people walk, but going away when they rest.

“The knock-on effect of this is that over time, people walk less often and/or for shorter distances till they end up spending most of their lives sitting, and this results in further long-term health problems.

“People become less able to do everyday tasks and become more dependent on others. Among other things, it is important for everyone to walk at least 30 minutes a day to maintain their independence, reduce the chances of a heart attack or a stroke, and have a good quality of life.”

He added: “The purpose of this project is to examine conclusions made from other research teams who have looked into this condition where participants have become active and/or remained active for at least six months after their participation in a physical activity or exercise programme has ended. By drawing new conclusions from these studies, we will be able to help others improve their treatments and help patients remain mobile.”

Dr Abaraogu said the research team’s first aim is to understand what has to happen before people with intermittent claudication become active and remain committed to long term physical activity.

Their second aim is to find out which parts of these programmes, and which other factors, had a hand in helping people increase their physical activity and/or make a long-term commitment to become more active.

“We also want to understand the feasibility and acceptability of these programmes for people with this condition and the people that provide them. In order to understand this, we will also examine wider issues relating to patients’ experience of this disease and physical activity.

“We will consider the results of these previous studies by working with health professionals who care for people with this condition, and patients with this disease. Using state-of-the-art methods to combine results from many research papers to arrive at new information, we believe we can find a way forward to making a considerable difference to the care of patients with this condition, and by so doing will not only improve the quality of life for many, but will save the NHS money,” said Dr Abaraogu.