Back and neck pain

A holistic approach to resolving back and neck pain
Our focus is on understanding the mechanisms and outcomes of back and neck pain, developing and testing interventions, and working with partners to improve clinical care and patient outcomes.

We're made up of consumers, clinicians, junior and senior researchers, research students and professional staff from a variety of backgrounds including physiotherapy, chiropractic, pharmacy, rheumatology, emergency medicine and orthopaedic surgery

We welcome new members regardless of research experience and academic seniority.

Our current projects

This trial will evaluate the effect of an opioid stewardship intervention on general practitioner prescribing of opioid medicines dispensed to their patients with low back pain over 1 year from index visit.

Lead investigator: Dr Christina Abdel Shaheed

Investigator team: Professor Chris Maher, Professor Fiona Blyth, Professor Andrew McLachlan, Associate Professor Patrick Kelly, Associate Professor Fiona Stanaway,  Dr Thomas Lung, Dr Rachel Thompson, Professor Louisa Degenhardt, Associate Professor Rowena Ivers

Operational team: Mr Daniel Chapman, Miss Lisa Vizza

This trial will evaluate the effect of introducing a coordinated support system (linking hospital outpatient physiotherapy services to a public health coaching service) at discharge from low back pain treatment, compared with usual care provided at discharge. 

Lead investigator: Professor Paulo Ferreira

Investigator team: Emeritus Professor Adrian Bauman,  Professor Melissa Baysari, Professor Manuela Ferreira, Professor Chris Maher, Professor Rachael Morton, Associate Professor Milena Simic, Dr Anita Amorim, Dr Emma Ho, Professor Paul Hodges, Professor Chris Lonsdale, Dr Dragana Ceprnja, Dr Ornella Clavisi, Dr Alice Kongsted, Dr Qiang Li, Dr Kate Reid, Mr Mark Halliday, Mr Matthew Jennings, Ms Katherine Maka, Ms Tahlia Reynolds

Operational team: Dr Carlos Mesa Castrillon, Dr Emma Ho, Mr Julian Comis, Ms Kate Roberts, Mr James Zouch

Find out more information about the trial.

Find out more information about the trial protocol.

HELP will investigate whether a media-led intervention presenting evidence-based back pain management information in General Practice waiting rooms is effective at changing patient beliefs and medical practitioner behaviours (prescriptions and referrals).

Lead investigator: Professor Manuela Ferreira

Investigator team: Emeritus Professor Adrian Bauman, Professor Melissa Baysari, Professor Paulo Ferreira, Dr Liliana Laranjo, Dr Gustavo Machado, Professor Andrew Georgiou

Operational team: Ms Carolina G. Fritsch, Mr Michael Knox, Ms Alessandra Marcelo, Mr Riyaas Mohammed, Ms Joanna Prior

NUDG-ED is a 2x2 factorial, open label, before-after, cluster randomised controlled trial that will investigate behavioural ‘nudging’ strategies to reduce use of low value care for low back pain in ED. 

Lead investigator: Dr Adrian Traeger

Investigator team: Professor Kirsten Howard, Professor Chris Maher, Professor Kirsten McCaffery, Professor Rachelle Buchbinder, Professor Louise Cullen, Professor Ian Harris, Professor Jeff Linder, Professor Enrico Coiera, Mr Qiang Li

Operational team: Dr Swee Sharma, Ms Gemma Altinger

Find out more information about the trial.

The Oral Steroids In Sciatica (OASIS) trial is a randomised, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial that will evaluate a tapering regimen of oral prednisolone in 200 participants with acute sciatica.

Lead investigator: Professor Chris Lin

Investigator team: Professor Chris Maher, Professor Andrew McLachlan, Dr Giovanni Ferreira, Dr Christina Abdel Shaheed, Professor Rachelle Buchbinder, Professor Ric Day, Professor Jane Latimer, Dr Qiang Li, Dr Chang Liu, Dr Bethan Richards

Operational team: Ms Melanie Hamilton, Mrs Hanan McLachlan, Ms Melissa Webb

Find out more information about the trial.

Find out more information about the trial protocol.

OPAL is a randomised, placebo-controlled, triple-blinded trial that investigates the judicious use of an opioid analgesic in 346 participants with acute low back pain and/or neck pain. 

Lead investigator: Professor Chris Lin

Investigator team: Professor Chris Maher, Professor Andrew McLachlan, Professor Laurent Billot, Professor Ric Day, Professor Bart Koes, Professor Jane Latimer, Dr Caitlin Jones

Operational team: Ms Melanie Hamilton, Mrs Hanan McLachlan, Ms Melissa Webb

Find out more information about the trial.

SUcceSS is a prospectively registered, randomised placebo-controlled trial of decompressive spinal surgery in people with symptomatic lumbar spinal stenosis. 

Lead investigator: Professor Manuela Ferreira

Investigator team: Professor Jane Latimer, Professor Chris Maher, Professor David Beard, Professor Rachelle Buchbinder, Professor Ian Harris, Professor Stephen Jan, Dr Gavin Davis, Dr Qian Li, Dr Ralph Mobbs, Dr Ralph Stanford

Operational team: Dr Emma Ho, Mr Michael Knox, Ms Joanna Prior

Find out more information about the trial.

Find out more information about the trial protocol.

RESHAPED will develop, implement, and evaluate a novel model of care for the management of low back pain in emergency departments (ED). The model of care aims to relieve pressure on EDs. 

Lead investigator: Professor Chris Maher

Investigator team: Professor Lisa Harvey, Professor Kirsten Howard, Professor Kirsten McCaffery, Professor Vasi Naganathan, Associate Professor Chris Williams, Dr Gustavo Machado, Professor Laurent Billot, Professor Rachelle Buchbinder, Professor Ian Harris, Professor Leigh Kinsman, Professor Jonathan Wiggers, Dr James Edwards, Dr Narcyz Ghinea, Dr Eileen Rogan

Operational team: Dr Danielle Coombs 

TEXT4myBACK is a randomised clinical trial assessing the efficacy and cost effectiveness of a semi-personalised text message intervention for people with acute low back pain. 

Lead investigator: Professor Manuela Ferreira

Investigator team: Professor Clara Chow, Professor Paulo Ferreira, Professor Andrew McLachlan, Professor Julie Redfern, Ms Carolina G. Fritsch, Ms Joanna Prior

Operational team: Ms Carolina G. Fritsch, Ms Alessandra Marcelo, Ms Joanna Prior

View the trial video

Find out more information about the trial protocol.

This trial will evaluate the effectiveness and feasibility of implementing ‘Back@Home’, a virtual hospital model of care for patients with musculoskeletal low back pain presenting to the emergency department, in reducing length of hospital stay.

Lead investigator: Dr Gustavo Machado

Investigator team: Professor Chris Maher, Dr Danielle M Coombs, Dr Thomas Lung, Ms Alla Melman, Mr Min Jiat Teng, Professor Laurent Billot, Dr Owen Hutchings, Dr Qiang Li, Dr Mona Marabani, Dr Eileen Rogan

Empower is a randomised controlled trial of an eHealth-supported intervention comprised of a physical activity plan and progressive resistance exercise program for people living in rural Australia with chronic non-specific low back pain and/or knee osteoarthritis compared to usual care.

Lead investigator: Professor Paulo Ferreira

Investigator team: Emeritus Professor Adrian Bauman, Professor Manuela Ferreira, Associate Professor Georgina Luscombe, Associate Professor Milena Simic, Dr Carlos Mesa Castrillon, Mr Phillip R Davis, Mr Antonio Michell de Gregorio, Professor Kim Bennell, Dr Grahame Knox, Dr Ornella Clavisi, Dr Stephen Bunker, Ms Kristy Hatswell

Operational team: Dr Carlos Mesa Castrillon, Mr Antonio Michell de Gregorio

Find out more information about the trial.

Find out more information about the trial protocol.

Several theme members hold externally funded fellowships:

They are all happy to help other members prepare a competitive application.