To quantify the change in quality of life, disease-specific indicators, health and lifestyle before and during the COVID-19 pandemic among people with musculoskeletal diagnoses and symptoms.


We undertook an additional follow-up of two existing UK registers involving people with axial spondyloarthritis (axSpA) or psoriatic arthritis (PsA) and participants in a trial in the UK who had regional pain and were identified at high risk of developing chronic widespread pain. Participants completed the study questionnaire between July and December 2020, throughout which time there were public health restrictions in place.


The number of people taking part in the study was 1054 (596 axSpA, 162 PsA, 296 regional pain). In comparison with their previous (pre-pandemic) assessment, there was an age-adjusted significant, small decrease in quality of life measured by EQ-5D [−0.020 (95% CI −0.030, −0.009)] overall and across all population groups examined. This was primarily related to poorer mental health and pain. There was a small increase in fibromyalgia symptoms, but a small decrease in sleep problems. There was a small deterioration in axSpA disease activity, and disease-specific quality of life and anxiety in PsA participants. Predictors of poor quality of life were similar pre- and during the pandemic. The effect of lockdown on activity differed according to age, gender and deprivation.


Important lessons include focusing on addressing anxiety and providing enhanced support for self-management in the absence of normal health care being available, and awareness that all population groups are likely to be affected.


This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. For commercial re-use, please contact journals.permissions@oup.com

Cite as

Macfarlane, G., Hollick, R., Morton, L., Heddle, M., Bachmair, E., Anderson, R., Whibley, D., Keenan, K., Murchie, P., Stelfox, K., Beasley, M. & Jones, G. 2021, 'The effect of COVID-19 public health restrictions on the health of people with musculoskeletal conditions and symptoms: the CONTAIN study', Rheumatology, article no: keab374. https://doi.org/10.1093/rheumatology/keab374

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Last updated: 16 June 2022
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