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Public Lecture: “My chronic back pain is Axy- what?” Axial Spondyloarthritis and Ankylosing Spondylitis; Symptoms, diagnosis and exercise for their management

A medical practitioner treating someone with lower back pain
Date and Time
29th March 2023, 17:30 - 18:30
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This public lecture was delivered by Professor Lettie Bishop, Professor of Exercise Immunology at Loughborough University, Dr Matthew Roberts, Research Associate in Exercise, Inflammation and Chronic Disease at Loughborough University, and Dr Moorthy Arumugam, Consultant Rheumatologist at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS trust on Wednesday 29 March at 5:30pm.

Axial Spondyloarthritis (axSpA), and its most common type, Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) is a chronic, painful inflammatory arthritis affecting 1 in 200 people in the UK, making it more common than Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis combined, yet most people are unaware of it.

Symptoms usually develop between the ages of 20 and 40, primarily affecting the spine and hips, but it can affect any joint, tendon or ligament. Other inflammatory conditions are commonly experienced in conjunction with axSpA, and the risk of developing cardiovascular disease is higher than in the general population.

Some of the most debilitating complications of axSpA are invisible; many suffer severe fatigue, and flares can make socialising and working problematic. Experiences of anxiety and depression are 6-fold higher among people with axSpA than the general population. However, it is underdiagnosed, with an average delay of diagnosis of over 8 years.

In this talk, our speakers explained how axSpA and AS develop, the most common symptoms and current available treatments. They  introduced their recent National Axial Spondyloarthritis Society (NASS) funded study investigating whether regular walking could have anti-inflammatory effects for people living with these conditions. The talk presented you with findings and offered you the chance to hear from study participants who shared their thoughts and experiences of being involved in this research. Professor Bishop, Dr Roberts and Dr Arumugam concluded this lecture with a discussion about the potential next steps and led an open forum for questions and answers.

Professor Lettie Bishop is Professor of Exercise Immunology in the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences at Loughborough University, based in the National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine-East Midlands. Lettie’s recent and current research includes investigations of the relationships between an active lifestyle and chronic inflammation in people living with Axial Spondyloarthropathy (ankylosing spondylitis), chronic kidney disease and obesity and patients recovering from severe COVID-19 infection. Lettie works closely with clinical colleagues and recent projects been funded from the National Axial Spondyloarthritis Society and Yakult Honsha and Heart Research UK. Lettie is a core investigator in the Lifestyle Theme of the National Institute of Health Research-funded Leicester Biomedical Research Centre. She has published over 120 peer-reviewed journal articles and is co-author of the 2013 and 2017 International Society of Exercise and Immunology Consensus Statements and the 2021 UK Renal Association Clinical Practice Guideline for Exercise and Lifestyle in Chronic Kidney Disease.

Dr Matthew Roberts is a researcher based at the National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine, Loughborough University. Matthew’s research investigates the interaction between obesity, ethnicity, physical activity, inflammation, immune function, and chronic disease. His PhD studies investigated the impact of exercise on cardiovascular disease risk and blood vessel function in people of different ethnicities. Recently, Matthew has been involved in a clinical study investigating the effect of exercise on inflammation and disease burden in people with Axial Spondyloarthritis. The preliminary findings of the study won the annual scientific prize in the ‘basic science’ category from the British Society for Spondyloarthritis. Matthew is active in research having been involved in 10 peer-reviewed journal articles since 2020.

Dr Moorthy Arumugam is a Consultant Rheumatologist and Head of Service for Rheumatology Services at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust. He is also an honorary Associate Professor at Leicester University, and honorary Senior Clinical Lecturer at Loughborough University. Dr Moorthy has been working with Professor Bishop for the past 5 years on projects to improve outcomes through lifestyle modifications for those with Axial Spondyloarthropathy (axSpA) and its most common clinical type, Ankylosing Spondylitis. Dr Moorthy was awarded a Patients’ Choice Awards in 2018 for his care, presented in the Houses of Parliament, and he leads the first UK National Clinical Centre of Excellence for axSpA at University Hospitals Leicester.

To find out more about Professor Lettie Bishop’s research on exercise, lifestyle activity and immune-mediated chronic inflammation, please visit the Loughborough University website.

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