The research projects conducted by the Centre cover a range of topics and have been divided into three themed groups as follows:
Theme 1: Musculoskeletal health and work in the general population
Within this theme are epidemiological and experimental studies which seek to understand the prevalence, impact and mechanisms underpinning musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and their impact on work at a population level. These studies are likely to lead to interventions which will need a ‘public health’ type of approach. The key research questions in this theme are:
1. What are the impacts of MSDs on ability to work to older ages and what could be done to support older workers with MSDs?
2. Can we use mobile technology to assess spinal posture and motion reliably? Can we measure differences amongst people with/without pain? Can we use this technology to predict those at risk of new pain?
3. What cognitive processes influence how individuals manage back pain, and could that be used to inform the development of communication strategies, including mass media campaigns, to influence back pain management behaviour?
Theme 2: Musculoskeletal health from the perspective of healthcare providers and patients with MSDs
This theme encompasses a range of studies amongst specific groups of patients with MSDs or seeking healthcare for MSDs. In some cases, the evidence base was already sufficient to develop and test interventions, but, in other cases, observational studies were needed which might directly change policy and/or practice.
The questions addressed in this theme are as follows:
1. Is advice to remain active better at reducing disability from distal forearm pain as compared with advice to rest?
2. Which factors predict disability from distal forearm pain?
3. In trials of the treatment of non-specific pain syndromes, which work outcomes are improved?
4. What are the effects of axial spondyloarthritis on work participation and have biologic drugs improved them? Why do patients with these conditions choose to disclose or not disclose their condition?
5. What is the impact of osteoarthritis on work participation?
6. What are employees’ perspectives on sickness certification, and the use of the Fit Note during discussions with employers?
7. When and how is it safe to return to work after carpal tunnel release?
8. When and how is it safe to return to work after lower limb arthroplasty?
9. Does returning to work involving physically demanding workplace activities increase the risk of failure of arthroplasty?
Theme 3: Musculoskeletal health and work from the perspective of employers and workers
In this theme, we consider the prevalence and impact of MSDs from the perspective of employers and employees in order to develop and test interventions targeted within workplaces. The research questions addressed within this theme are:
1. Amongst groups of workers doing similar types of work in different countries (nurses, secretaries and manual workers) what are the effects of cultural and psychosocial factors on the prevalence, and impact of musculoskeletal pain?
2. How can we more accurately assess the economic costs of presenteeism for employers?
3. In a medium-sized third sector organisation, how feasible is it to introduce a package of measures targeted at improving the musculoskeletal health of the workforce? How acceptable to employees is it? What does it cost? What are the impacts on the organisation?