This article was originally published here
Health Wait. January 8, 2022. doi: 10.1111 / hex.13429. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: The guidelines encourage participation in self-care activities for osteoarthritis (OA), but there are gaps in consumer knowledge about appropriate choices for self-care. Community pharmacists are uniquely positioned to help manage osteoarthritis by identifying and supporting evidence-based pain management choices. Previous research has established an association between health literacy and counseling seeking and the appropriateness of pain medication choices (both weaker in participants with limited health literacy) in people with osteoarthritis. This article explores the implications of these data for pharmacists in the management of osteoarthritis.
METHODS: A national online survey was conducted among 628 adults aged 45 to 74, currently residing in Australia, with self-reported symptoms of osteoarthritis. All data was collected using a personalized online questionnaire, which was completed only once. The “self-reported symptoms of osteoarthritis” was based on six screening questions validated to identify people with osteoarthritis without a formal clinical diagnosis.
RESULTS: Respondents matched the typical profile of people diagnosed with osteoarthritis; more than half were female (56%), the knees (59%) and hips (31%) were the main joints affected and 74% were overweight or obese. Self-identification of osteoarthritis was limited (41%). Overall, 38% self-managed their pain, and poor health literacy was associated with less counseling seeking. Efficacy and ease of use were the top reasons cited for encouraging use in all classes of over-the-counter pain relievers, with less than 20% reporting a pharmacist recommendation. . Participants managed their pain with an average of 1.74 (95% confidence interval: 1.60-1.88) analgesics, but 73% reported inadequate pain relief and 54% had disturbed sleep.
CONCLUSION: Our results highlight three key themes: lack of self-identification of OA, suboptimal pain relief, and limited use of the community pharmacist as a source of management advice. Equipping community pharmacists with tools to identify osteoarthritis could fill this gap. More research is needed to determine if this will improve the ability of consumers to properly manage pain from osteoarthritis.
PATIENT OR PUBLIC CONTRIBUTION: Consumers living with osteoarthritis contributed study results, reviewed the survey questionnaire for face validity, and provided advice on plain language terminology.