1. Funding

The work of the Centre for Pain, Health and Lifestyle is supported by $1,860,898 in competitive fellowships and project funding schemes.

  • Understanding the association between low back pain and risk factors for chronic disease [2016-2020]
    Principal Investigator: Dr Christopher Williams
    Funded by
    : National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)
    Funding Scheme: Early Career Fellowships
    Description: Being overweight or obese and smoking are believed to be significant contributors to the development of long term back pain. However, we know little about the relationship between low back pain and these risks for chronic disease. This research aims to understand these relationships by testing if weight and smoking programs reduce low back pain disability in overweight or smoking patients, and secondly if back pain also influences risk factors for chronic disease.
  • Optimising management of low back pain and health risk factors: integrated care to improve patient outcomes and reduce unnecessary care [2016-2022]
    Principal Investigator: Dr Christopher Williams
    Funded by
    : Hunter New England Local Health District
    Funding Scheme: Clinical Research Fellowship
    Description: The broad aims of the fellowship research is to improve the quality of care for people with musculoskeletal conditions and associated risk factor factors for chronic disease. The work involves systems thinking to develop support strategies for the management of patients in primary care, and reduce the impact of these conditions on tertiary services.
  • Spinal pain and lifestyle-related health risk factors; disentangling the relationship and evaluating better management strategies [2016-2022]
    Principal Investigator: 
    A/Prof Steven Kamper
    Funded by: National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)
    Funding Scheme: Career Development Fellowships
    Description: Spinal pain and lifestyle health factors such as overweight, smoking and lack of physical activity are major problems in Australia. They cause huge personal suffering and enormous cost to the healthcare system. Despite the fact that spinal pain and lifestyle factors are often linked, their prevention and treatment are typically separate. This program of research aims to understand how spinal pain and lifestyle risk factors interact, to help make prevention and treatment for both more effective.
  • Moving research into practice – using process evaluations of treatment mechanisms to inform the implementation of evidence-based healthcare [2016-2022]
    Principal Investigator: 
    Dr Hopin Lee
    Funded by: National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)
    Funding Scheme: Early Career Fellowships (Overseas)
    Description: Effective treatments must be integrated into clinical practice. But this process isn’t always efficient. One reason for this is a lack of understanding for how treatments work. My research will identify treatment mechanisms for chronic back pain (leading cause of disability world-wide) and use this information to integrate effective reatments into practice. I will work with experts from the Oxford Clinical Trials Unit, UK and apply this research to clinical health service units in Australia.
  • Characteristics and management of co-existing musculoskeletal pain and health risk behaviours
    PhD Scholarship
    : Amanda Williams
    Funded by: Commonwealth Postgraduate Award
  • HELP – Healthy Lifestyle for patients with Low Back Pain
    PhD Scholarship: 
    Emma Robson
    Funded by: 
    NSW Health PhD Scholarship
  • Telephone-based weight management for patients with osteoarthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions
    PhD Scholarship: 
    Kate O’Brien
    Funded by: Commonwealth Postgraduate Award

2. Special Journal Editions

  • Special Edition in ‘Back Pain’
    Journal: Best Practice and Research Clinical Rheumatology
    Editors: A/Prof Steven Kamper and Dr Christopher Williams
    Due for publication: November 2017 (some articles available online currently)Steve and Chris proposed and commissioned 10 papers all focused on the topic of back pain. The edition includes work led by 10 different authors, of whom 7 are within 5 years of PhD completion. Themes addressed in the included papers are: Back pain in children, decision-support tools, cultural influences, economic assessment, causal modelling, apps, self-management, clinical practice guidelines, outcome measurement, and implementation
  • Special Edition in ‘Musculoskeletal Pain in Children and Adolescents’
     Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy
    Editors:A/Prof Steven Kamper and Dr Christopher Williams
    Due for publication: October 2017Steve and Chris commissioned submissions from 11 different research groups in 6 countries to make up this special edition. The edition includes a diverse range of articles including studies on physical activity and pain, hypermobility, measurement of outcome in paediatric populations, pain and lifestyle-related risk factors, and motor development and pain. The aim of the edition is increase visibility of the issue of MSK pain in children and bring together researchers in the field.

3. Ongoing Projects

  • Weight for Surgery
    Weight for Surgery is large embedded research program using a cohort multiple RCT design. The aim of Weight for Surgery is to investigate the most effective ways to better support patients with chronic MSK pain who are referred for specialist consultation in tertiary hospitals. The cohort is formed by patients on the wait list for specialist MSK services at John Hunter Hospital, Newcastle. The cohort is being used to understand the effectiveness of coordinated care progresses to i) improve patient outcomes and ii) health services efficiency. The studies utilise randomised designs, pre-post and historical comparisons.
    Weight For Surgery is supported by HNELHD and NHMRC funding
  • HELP – Healthy Lifestyle for Low Back Pain
    HELP is a large trial established as a result of the above cohort multiple RCT (Weight for Surgery). The aim of HELP is to investigate the role and effectiveness of adding healthy lifestyle interventions to the clinical management of people with chronic back pain. The trial is formed by patients inappropriately referred for outpatient specialist services in tertiary hospitals for back pain. The study draws on an intergrade care design by prioritising the coordination of care between multiple settings including primary care (general practice), outpatient services (hospital referral pathways), population health services (lifestyle management support), physiotherapy (clinical care) and specialist services. The project is co-produced by researchers at the Centre for Pain, Health and Lifestyle, Outpatient Services at the John Hunter Hospital, physiotherapy department, and neurosurgery and orthopaedics departments. (Add links to protocols and relevant papers)
    HELP is funded by a National Health and Medical Research Council project grant.
  • PainSmart Kids
    PainSmart Kids is a series of linked projects being implemented at the Hunter New England Population Health to build capacity in childhood programs to better support the prevent and management of pain related conditions. The focus of PainSmart Kids is to support kids, their parents and carers to have the knowledge, understanding and tools available to deal with pain when it arises. Currently PainSmart kids is undergoing work in areas related to:

    • Obesity and lifestyle risk management
    • Physical Activity
    • Substance prevention
    • Immunisation

PainSmart Kids is supported by HNELHD.

  • Reducing the impact of back pain in miner
    This project will quantify the impact of comorbid back pain and lifestyle risks in the mining industry in terms of poor health, and industry level economics. The project will also pilot preventative and management initiatives to better support comorbid back pain and lifestyle risks in the industry.
    The project is supported by a Coal Services Health and Safety Trust Grant.
  • Systematic reviews
    Centre personnel are working on several systematic reviews investigating questions relevant to MSK pain, the relationship between MSK pain and health related risk factors, and how to effectively support the delivery of health services to patients. Current reviews include:

    • Common musculoskeletal conditions and the risk of chronic disease (led by Amanda Williams)
    • Effectiveness of telephone-based and telehealth interventions for managing common musculoskeletal conditions (led by Kate O’Brien)
    • Backpack use and back pain in school-aged children (led by Tie Yamato),
    • Conservative interventions for back pain in children (Tie Yamato),
    • Weight loss for common musculoskeletal conditions. (led by Rebecca Hodder and Emma Robson)
    • Smoking cessation for musculoskeletal conditions (led by Bruno Saragiotto)