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Neuro-Musculoskeletal Research Collaborative

Discover, prevent, rehabilitate, cure
We co-design research with patients, clinicians, government and industry partners to discover causes and create solutions and systems to reduce the global burden of neuro-musculoskeletal conditions and improve people’s lives.

The musculoskeletal research collaborative is a multi-disciplinary collaboration that involves researchers and research students from a wide range of disciplines.

Our focus is on the neuro-musculoskeletal system and impairments that affect healthy function: the neuro-musculoskeletal system includes the joints, muscles, nerves and tissues of the brain, spine and peripheral joints, and also involves cognition and pain experiences.

We work in world-leading research laboratories as well as in clinics and the community. Over the past 3 years our group has published over 260 peer-reviewed articles with a field-weighted citation impact (FWCI) of 2.02 and been awarded almost $20 million in competitive research funding. 

What we do

We lead research that aims to cure neuro-musculoskeletal conditions that affect human health and wellbeing.

We aim to cure these conditions by discovering the causes of injury, pain and disability and by innovating to develop effective therapies to treat and prevent the cause of the problem. 

We also translate our research into evidence-based practice in collaboration with clinicians and consumers, and into policy in collaboration with relevant decision-makers.

The broad range of our research focuses on:

  •  Prevalence, onset, diagnosis and mechanism of injury (e.g. sporting, traumatic and occupational injury, such as wrist fractures, ankle sprains)
  • Management and prevention of neuro-musculoskeletal conditions (e.g. low back and neck pain, headache, osteoarthritis, metabolic diseases, neuromuscular conditions such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease)
  • The course of neuro-musculoskeletal conditions, including the transition from acute to chronic status.

Our researchers are highly motivated to solve some of the most complex questions related to both common and rare neuro-musculoskeletal conditions.

Our approach includes:

  • Co-design of our research in collaboration with clinicians and people with experience of these conditions.
  • Building research capacity by ensuring our teams include Honours students, PhD candidates, early and mid-career researchers, all of whom are mentored and supported by senior researchers.
  • Building collaborations by partnering globally with industry, health organisations, leading researchers, clinicians, and people living with these conditions.
  • Conducting research using a wide range of research designs and research tools.
    • Research designs include: epidemiological and cohort studies, qualitative studies, randomised clinical trials, systematic reviews, and implementation studies.
    • Research tools to discover new mechanisms of pain or injury such as: biomechanical testing, neuro-imaging techniques, tools to evaluate both psychological and physical status.
  • Diagnostics: Our researchers have improved the ability to accurately diagnose various neuro-musculoskeletal conditions, such as ankle injuries, osteoarthritis, migraine, neck and low back pain, concussion and other trauma.

    They have designed and evaluated new diagnostic tests and evaluated existing tests to determine diagnostic utility. Our researchers also investigate mechanisms of injury and of pain persistence and disability, better enabling targeted prevention and intervention.  
  • Novel treatments: Our researchers have co-designed new interventions in collaboration with consumers and clinicians for a broad range of neuro-musculoskeletal conditions, such as back and neck pain, headache and whiplash-associated disorders, sporting injuries, as well as diseases such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease and muscular dystrophy.
  • Health Services: Our researchers have re-designed services in health, education and community facilities resulting in improved outcomes for patients.
  • Research translation and implementation: Our researchers are deeply engaged with implementation science and research translation, and have had a major impact on practice and policy, leading to better health outcomes and reduced burden of disease.

    An example of translation is the online platform MyPainHub, which both consumers and clinicians to best evidence for common musculoskeletal conditions 

Some examples of recently funded studies include:

  1. Redesign of the way in which patients with low back pain are discharged after treatment, linking them to lifestyle programs in the community (NHMRC $2.5M funded trial. Prof Ferreira P, Prof Ferreira M, Dr Simic M).
  2. Implementation of a novel clinical Pathway of CarE for common musculoskeletal conditions in primary care. The aim is to provide the right care for people at the right time. People who have a good prognosis need less care and are provided access to evidence-based resources, whilst those with a poorer prognosis are referred early to expert allied health clinicians. This avoids unnecessary care and improves access to appropriate care where needed. (NHMRC $1.5m A/Prof Rebbeck, Dr Evans, A/Prof Simic, Prof Ferreira, Prof Refshauge, Prof Nicholas, Prof Cameron, Prof Trevena). 
  3. The 1000 Norms Project is the first database of the profile of healthy Australians across the lifespan. The > 1 million data points generated by the 1000 Norms Project are being used to pioneer the development of whole-of-life functional scales, developing responsive clinical outcome assessments for a range of neurological and musculoskeletal conditions.  Outcome measure calculators and 1000 Norms Project data are freely available in Clinical Outcome Measures.

Our people

  • Carlos Mesa Castrillon
  • Lingxiao Chen
  • Min Chew
  • Lionel Chia
  • Sonia Coates
  • Julian Comis
  • Prakash Dhopte
  • Nicole D'Souza
  • Leanne Dwan
  • Carolina Gassen Fritsch
  • Andrew Gamble
  • Lina Goh
  • Edward Gorgon
  • Hannah Graetz
  • Alex Griffin
  • Yareni Guerrero Ayala
  • Michelle Hancock
  • Benjamin Hickman
  • Emma Ho
  • Laura Hutchison
  • Kwangil Kang
  • Qianwen Lan 
  • Jennifer Lewis
  • Marie March
  • Suzanne Mate
  • Tomas Megalaa
  • Eleanor Morris
  • Thomas Patterson
  • Aimie Peek
  • James Puterflam
  • Shayan Quinlan
  • Pavithra Rajan
  • Kate Roberts
  • Andrew Ross
  • Alison Sim
  • Danielle Stone 
  • Brendan Ware
  • Paul Watson
  • Alison Wesley
  • Jim Zouch


Prof Kathryn Refshauge
Professor Kathryn Refshauge
View Prof. Refshauge's academic profile


Prof Paulo Ferreira

Contact us

  • D18 - Susan Wakil Health Building Western Avenue The University of Sydney, NSW 2006