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The University of Southampton
Health SciencesOur research

Musculoskeletal Project Cluster

Movement dysfunction in musculoskeletal disorders can restrict everyday activities and reduce quality of life. Our research aims to optimise function using innovative research approaches and health technologies.


This involves developmental studies and clinical trials to increase understanding of normal musculoskeletal function and to find effective ways of managing joint and soft tissue conditions (such as arthritis) and other musculoskeletal disorders (such as back or shoulder pain).

The ultimate aim is to enable active living and healthy ageing, whilst minimising the limitations caused by musculoskeletal conditions.

Our research focuses on:

  • Back pain
  • Hand conditions - osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Shoulder pain
  • Knee conditions – osteoarthritis, joint replacement, patellofemoral pain
  • Foot conditions – rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis
  • Healthy ageing - maintenance of independence for as long as possible

Research Approaches

A key feature of our research is its sound multidisciplinary base, primarily involving health and engineering disciplines. Our approaches include basic science laboratory-based studies of biomechanical and physiological mechanisms of normal function, dysfunction and recovery, applied developmental studies of technologies for assessment and treatment, exploring communication and interaction between clinicians and patients and clinical reasoning and clinical trials of treatment effectiveness.
Both quantitative and qualitative techniques are employed, with mixed methods being an essential ingredient in clinical trials.


  • Developing objective assessment tools for research and clinical practice to guide patient management
  • Elucidating biomechanical and physiological mechanisms of normal function, movement dysfunction and recovery to inform development of treatments
  • Developing effective treatment techniques and patient centred approaches
    Assistive technology
  • Clinical trials to evaluate treatments
  • Delivery of care – communication and clinical decision making
  • User involvement

Health Technologies

We are recognised internationally for technological developments and innovative applications in:

Ultrasound imaging (our research has helped to establish rehabilitative ultrasound imaging of muscle to become a recognised area within the medical imaging field, specifically for assessment and biofeedback to enhance treatment in rehabilitation by physiotherapists)

Diagnostic imaging of foot conditions (we have developed diagnostic ultrasound imaging protocols for detection of inflammatory arthritis within the foot and ankle, particularly for use by Podiatrists)

Motion analysis (research into movement dysfunction requires accurate measurement of functional movement using valid and reliable techniques. We conduct state of the art 3-dimensional motion analysis, using Vicon motion capture systems, with integrated electromyography and force platforms. Work involves developing models for different areas of the body including: shoulder, hand, knee, lumbopelvic region, foot and ankle).

Hand splinting effectiveness studies of splints for hand arthritis and clinical studies into innovative new developments, such as small hand joint silver ring splints for correcting hand deformities in arthritis

Outcome measures (development of robust outcome measurement techniques for use in musculoskeletal rehabilitation research and clinical practice).

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