About Us

'AStretch was started in 2001 in response to the growing appetite amongst health professionals for knowledge regarding AS management'.

The name came from convergence of mutual aims:

A   Axial

S   Spondyloathritis

t    To teach clinicians, patients and the general public about AxSpA and it’s management

r    To play an active role in current and future research associated with AxSpA

e    To establish an up to date database of literature on AxSpA to ensure evidence based practice

t    To help advance the therapeutic management of AxSpA

c    To ensure holistic care of the psychological implications of AxSpA

h    To educate and help advance the hydrotherapy management of AxSpA

The principles of which were the foundation of the original AStretch course devised by this committee.

The original committee took these principles as a foundation for the first AStretch course booklet in management of Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS).
The AStretch Education course was very much based on the work of Jane Barefoot. Jane was a physiotherapist working at the Royal National Hospital for Rhematic Diseases in Bath. She was also the first physiotherapy advisor to National Axial Spondyloarthritis Society (NASS). She spent much of her professional career travelling around the world educating physiotherapists and patients alike with her enthusiasm for treating AxSpA with exercise

The Committee

AStretch meet up at least twice yearly, the primary purpose is one of networking and discussing best practice in the management of people with Axial Spondyloarthritis.

Ultimately, this results in planning and disseminating Education and support to Physiotherapist and other Professionals who work with this patient group.

The Committee members represent Physiotherapy and Academic departments across the U.K.

Emily Clarke

Specialist Physiotherapist in AxSpA at Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases, Bath

Emily has worked at the RNHRD since 2011 and delivers the Bath residential self-management programme for AxSpA patients.

Emily is a keen advocate of research, and has co-authored publications on Sleep in AxSpA.

Susimala Gaikwad

Clinical Specialist Physiotherapist in Rheumatology, Diana Princess of Wales Hospital in Grimsby

Susi has established regular intensive Physiotherapy courses for patients with AS in the hospital setting She has been a member of the AStretch Steering Group since 2001 and has welcomed the opportunity of networking and sharing best practice.

Will Gregory

Consultant Physiotherapist, Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust

Will is employed at Consultant Physio level by the Rheumatology Department at Salford Royal Hospital. His role includes running the AHP-led spondyloarthritis service. He is a active member of ASSIGNw (research network of physiotherapists from the North West who have a special interest in AxSpA). He is a visiting lecturer in Advanced Practice at Manchester Met. Uni. He has an honorary position at the University of Manchester, teaching medical undergraduates and registrars and is also involved with the Rheumatology AHP MSc and the ASPiRE courses at Keele University. 

Claire Harris

Senior Physiotherapist, London North West Healthcare NHS Trust

Claire is the lead physiotherapist attending the weekly Consultant led Spondyloarthritis clinic. Currently AStretch Chair, Claire is a trustee of NASS and is a member of their medical advisory board. Claire has been a member of AStretch since its formation in 2001.

Heather Harrison

Senior Rheumatology Physiotherapist, York Hospital NHS Trust

Heather has developed pathways and services for patients with Spondyloarthritis. She works alongside a Rheumatology Consultant in the Inflammatory Back Pain clinic. Heather has been on the AStretch committee since 2001. It has been an excellent opportunity to share knowledge and hopefully raise the standards of physiotherapy care for patients with inflammatory back conditions.

Claire Jeffries

Physiotherapy Clinical Specialist in Hydrotherapy and Rheumatology for Solent NHS Trust

Claire leads services for Ankylosing Spondylitis in the Portsmouth District. Along with her AStretch colleagues Claire has been working with the National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society (NASS) to raise the awareness of the condition and the impact that it has on peoples’ lives. Claire facilitates the AStretch conferences and is a tutor for the AStretch workshops. She was one of the founder members of the AStretch committee.

Melanie Martin

Advanced Physiotherapy Practitioner in Rheumatology, Guy's & St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust.

Melanie joined the AStretch committee in 2015 and is one of the educators on our AStretch Assessment and Management of AS courses.  Melanie qualified as a physiotherapist in 1997 from King’s College, London, and has specialised in musculoskeletal practice for over 20 years, having developed her current role in the Spondyloarthritis (SpA) Service at Guy’s Hospital in London since 2010. Melanie has a special interest in self-management, exercise and health behaviour in Axial SpA and has presented her research in self-management at the British Society of Spondyloarthritis (BritSpA), the British Society for Rheumatology (BSR) and European League against Rheumatism (EULAR). Melanie is a regular presenter on the importance of non-pharmacological management of SpA, with a passion for education and developing person-centred digital services and has a number of roles at Guy’s leading digital transformation of AxSpA and therapies services. Melanie is the founder of the Axial Spondyloarthritis Know-How (ASK) self-management programme at Guy’s Hospital and has written a self-management handbook for patients. She is a member of the National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society (NASS) and presented on behalf of AStretch the NASS-funded research into the UK-provision of hydrotherapy for Axial SpA at EULAR 2018. She is also really keen on football.

Dr Jane Martindale

Clinical Specialist Physiotherapist / Therapy Research Lead, Wrightington Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust

Jane’s clinical practice mainly centres on AS/Axial SpA and has worked at her trust for over 35 years. She also holds an Honorary Research position at Lancaster University and a Honorary Senior Lecturer post at Edge Hill University. Jane formed a research network of physiotherapists from the North West who have a special interest in AS (ASSIGNw). Jane has been a member of AStretch since 2009 and continues to work on projects in education for all health care professionals. In September 2018, Jane was elected as the first physiotherapist to join the BritSpA Executive Committee.  She continues to be avidly involved in supporting and nurturing AHPs who are aspiring to develop their research careers.

Marie Therese McDonald

Rheumatology Physiotherapist in Greater Glasgow & Clyde; Lecturer in Physiotherapy at Glasgow Caledonian University

MT is a physiotherapist in Glasgow with a special interest in the assessment and treatment of people with Axial Spondyloarthritis. She is a PHD candidate, studying adherence to prescribed exercise programmes. She is passionate about education of health care professionals for the best care of patients. As a new member of AStretch she hopes to develop and disseminate skills.

Juliette O' Hea

Physiotherapist, Arthritis First

Juliette’s present business promotes exercise for people with arthritis in her local community. She was diagnosed with AS whilst studying to be a physiotherapist. As a founder member of AStretch and having first hand knowledge of the impact of the disease, has enabled Juliette to share her life experiences with the group. This has been an all round enriching experience.

Louise Preston

Advanced Physiotherapy Practitioner in Rheumatology and Clinical Lead for Rheumatology Therapy, Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust.

Louise manages the therapy team at both New Cross and Cannock Chase Hospitals. She is currently involved with the development of local treatment pathways for people with this condition. She has valued her time on the committee, she feels that this has given her the opportunity to develop and disseminate skills.


Job Title


About us

AStretch is a not for profit organisation; our main aim is to provide a co-ordinated approach to the planning and delivery of education and best practice. Also to support physiotherapists working with people who have Axial Spondyloarthritis (AxSpA) and Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS).


Email us on astretch@astretch.co.uk for general enquiries

comms@astretch.co.uk to submit features for peer review and consideration for website inclusion

education@astretch.co.uk for enquiries related to our courses or conference.

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