News archive

17th July 2020

COVID-19 Physiotherapy News

Updated 1st September 2020


We are indeed living in ‘unprecedented’ times and many things may never return to the ‘old’ normal but instead be replaced by a ‘new’ normal.  We all now talk with new vocabularies including ‘social distancing’,  ‘2 meter rules’ ‘Stay Safe’, ‘Track and Trace’  and many more.  The virtual world and what this would have to offer for the way that we encourage our axial SpA patients to exercise and remain healthy has been knocking on the door for several years.  COVID-19 blew that door wide open with the winds of change blowing us through it at ‘unprecedented’ speed.

This blog captures and shares personal journeys of physiotherapy colleagues as they have embraced new ways of working and reaching their patients during the ‘lock down’.


Chris Martey

Exercise as Medicine

BRITSpA members, Mr Christopher Martey Specialist Physiotherapist and Dr Raj Sengupta Consultant Rheumatologist, have published a review in the Current Opinion in Rheumatology Journal in the last month, giving  an insightful overview of the role of Physical Therapy (or Physiotherapy) in the management of Axial Spondyloarthritis (axSpA). They specifically highlight the role of physical activity promotion and exercise therapy as mainstays of treatment.

Chris and Raj outline how Physiotherapy is recommended ‘as an integral part of standard care’ for the management of axSpA, with the focus of promoting physical activity and prescribing exercise within four domains, defined by the European League against Rheumatism (EULAR) as: aerobic, resistance (strength), flexibility and neuro-motor exercise. This most recent EULAR manuscript additionally provides 10 recommendations for physical activity in people with Spondyloarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and hip and knee osteoarthritis.

The BRITSpA members state that there is an increasing evidence base to support Physiotherapy interventions in axSpA and present evidence supporting the use of exercise; updates among different exercise modalities; and make clear its critical place in the management of this condition. Recent large, multicentre data have shown that high-intensity exercise can improve disease activity and also positively impact cardiovascular risk factors in these patients. This study from Sveaas et al. (2019) is a pragmatic randomised controlled trial which evaluated high-intensity exercise in 100 patients with axSpA. The study goes some way to debunk concerns that high intensity exercise might exacerbate disease activity in this population. Another salient paper mentioned in the review is Perrotta et al (2019) excellent and concise review into new insights surrounding rehabilitation and physical therapy, which includes comments on the importance of patient education.

Chris and Raj’s review highlights the integral role that exercise plays and also that Allied Health Professionals, namely Physiotherapists, have in leading on such interventions. Although international treatment guidelines advocate the inclusion of physical activity and exercise for the optimal management of axSpA, specific guidance about the amount of exercise required to produce a beneficial effect is lacking. Chris and Raj summarise that exercise mustbe used in the management of axSpA, but whilst hydrotherapy and flexibility exercises are traditionally the main focus, other applications, such as strength training, may be underutilized domains, and that further studies are needed to determine the dose–response relationship between exercise and axSpA patient subsets.


Melanie Martin

Melanie is an Advanced Physiotherapy Practitioner and Topol Digital Health Fellowshares. Here she shares her insights in how digital health is here to stay.






Emily Clarke


“Over the last two months I have started regular zoom exercise sessions, on a voluntary basis, with the Bath NASS group. These started as daily sessions then moved to three times weekly. The sessions were well received by the Bath branch and NASS HQ have asked if I can offer them to other NASS groups. Due to my concerns on the logistics of providing Zoom sessions to larger numbers, I am looking to provide online videos via YouTube. These will be pre-recorded or live-streamed sessions via the NASS YouTube site.

AStretch were approached by NASS to provide online content to their members to help them self-manage during the COVID period. As a committee member, I have provided a Facebook live session on appropriate types of exercise in axial SpA and how to stay motivated. I also produced some pre-recorded exercise videos that can be easily followed at home.”



Heather Harrison

Zoom NASS sessions, the new world during Lockdown!

Last year I did a blog about running a NASS group for 20 years. At that point I thought our group had tried a good variety of different exercises, mat work, Pilates, Nordic working, even rounders to name a few. However, recent weeks have seen such dramatic changes to our way of life, that I would never have predicted our sessions would have gone virtual.

When NASS advised group sessions to stop on 16th March, I emailed the group links to the NASS YouTube clips, ‘Back to Action’ and any other appropriate exercise. However, this didn’t really seem enough. Not being a natural ‘techi’ I was trying to work out if I could email video clips of myself doing exercises, when one of our group said his daughter had been doing dance lessons via Zoom (Yorkshire Rose Academy of Dance) and could we use it for our sessions. The rest of the group were really keen to try and we did our first session on 7thApril. It has been lovely to keep in touch with the members and see that everyone is managing ok. Most of the members are self-isolating and have found keeping in touch with each other really helpful. We have kept the day and time the same as our normal sessions to try to keep some normality at this strange time.

Some quotes from our members:

‘Really good to be part of the group again. Look forward to it each week. Something to focus on as well as a good reminder to keep up the exercises’

‘I’m very happy to do Zoom, it keeps us together as a group and focused. Just have to manage the technology’

‘The 2 things no pre-recorded can replicate. They provide personalised, appropriate exercise from physios who knew us all as individuals. And they enable a degree of mutual interaction which has never been more important in terms of maintaining morale’

‘Really good to keep in touch with the group during lock-down and still benefit from exercising together’

I would recommend if you run a NASS group to suggest virtual sessions to your members. It is easy to download the App and set up a meeting. Members can be easily talked through how to do it and don’t need to be technically minded. It allows members to keep in touch and exercise which is so valuable at this most unusual of times. Coming out of the lock down period, we hope to be back in the gym in the autumn. However, the group are keen to keep the option of zoom sessions going. If the weather is bad in winter or the Christmas period seems busy, the online option may be a quicker and easier way to keep active and in touch with everyone.



Chris Martey

Primary Care and Community Physiotherapy Clinics during COVID-19



BRITSpA member, Chris Martey, is a specialist Physiotherapist who, after moving from secondary care Rheumatology, now works in primary care as a first contact physiotherapist (FCP) and advanced Allied Health Professional with skills and expertise in assessment and management of musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions. Here, Chris shares his experience on how the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a new way of working.








If you would like to share your COVID experience, through work, re-structuring of services for your SpA patients, or even new hobbies you may have taken up, please contact


18th June 2020

BRITSpA Annual Scientific Meeting 2021 announced


After the success of the first virtual Annual Scientific Meeting last september,  we are planning to hold a virtual meeting on  22nd September 2021, 1300 – 1700 hrs.

We have prepared a quality and interactive programme  and are delighted to announce that our popular abstract competition will be back. Stay tuned for more details coming soon!

12th November 2019

BRITSpA at five

In 2019 the British Society for Spondyloarthritis, BRITSpA, held its fifth Annual Scientific Meeting, the largest and most successful to date. As the society continues to grow, members of its Executive Committee reflect on current achievements and challenges ahead. Read more.

10th November 2019

BRITSpA UK consensus statement on the use of MRI in axial SpA

UK recommendations developed to help clinicians make the best use of MRI in the diagnosis of axial Spondyloarthritis (axial SpA) are now published in Rheumatology (Oxford). This consensus statement was the work of an expert task force of UK based rheumatologists and radiologists assembled by the British Society for Spondyloarthritis (BRITSpA) with the aim to standardise and improve the use of MRI in axial SpA to facilitate an early and more accurate diagnosis of this disabling condition.

Read more »

3rd November 2019

Hurry! Final call for applications to the Aspiring to Excellence Programme 2021 cohort

Be part of the 2nd wave of Aspiring to Excellence Programme recruits

Calling all healthcare professionals who look after people with axial SpA. Have you and your MDT colleagues thought about being part of this Quality Improvement programme delivered by the NHS Transformation Unit?


Have a listen to what Dr Toni Chan, Consultant Rheumatologist from Royal Berkshire NHS Transformation Trust has to say about his team’s experience as part of his participation in the cohort 1 of the Aspiring to Excellence Programme.

“Click” on the image to hear Toni’s account of his experience


To learn more and obtain an application pack please contact Dr Lisa Swingler at NASS or go to our website.


Deadline for applications is 31st December 2020


Aspiring to Excellence is a structured change-delivery teach and test programme that encourages and recognises service improvement in axial SpA (AS) care.

It is delivered by the NHS Transformation Unit and NASS and supported thought a strategic partnership between NASS, BRITSpA and sponsoring companies AbbVie, Novartis, Biogen, Lilly and UCB. The first cohort of rheumatology teams have just completed their first year and recruitment for Cohort 2 is underway.