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Research project: Motion analysis of movement dysfunction in musculoskeletal disorders

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Problems with movement in musculoskeletal disorders can cause severe restriction of everyday activities, reducing quality of life. Arthritic and non-disease related disorders, such as back or shoulder pain, span all adult age groups, having a significant economic impact on society. The overall aim of the programme of studies being facilitated by motion analysis technology is to improve diagnosis and treatment of movement abnormalities associated with musculoskeletal conditions. This requires accurate measurement of functional movement using valid and reliable techniques, such as 3-dimensional motion analysis, with integrated electromyography and force platforms.

Study goals include: elucidating biomechanical and physiological mechanisms of movement dysfunction to inform development of treatments; validating clinical tools to improve diagnostic accuracy and guide patient management; developing treatments in rehabilitation; evaluating surgical and rehabilitation techniques in clinical trials; and a technological study of motion analysis. The multidisciplinary teams at Southampton have extensive expertise in these research areas and technologies.

Accurate measurement is essential for studying movement and the system being used, the Vicon motion analysis system, allows precise measurements in three dimensions (3-D). The technique involves attaching small reflective markers with sticky tape on the person’s skin at specific points. The markers reflect light and their positions are detected by the system’s infra-red cameras placed within a few meters around the person. Computer software then analyses the signals picked up from the markers and provides very precise information about the angles of joints and movements of the underlying bones, with an accuracy of a few millimetres. The person is able to move freely in an area surrounded by the cameras, so different functional movements can be examined, such as walking, climbing steps, sitting and rising from a chair, lifting objects, reaching towards objects.

Such sophisticated measurement of functional movement is a very powerful research and clinical tool for the range of musculoskeletal projects being undertaken in Southampton. The comprehensive collaborative programme involves multidisciplinary teams of engineering scientists and clinical researchers in physiotherapy, occupational therapy, sports science, medicine (rheumatology, orthopaedic surgery, primary care), as well as consumer groups. The projects range from basic science, where motion analysis may be the main measurement technique used, to clinical research in which measures of function or the patient’s quality of life may be the most important measure but the motion analysis results may provide physical evidence of improvement.

Technological development of the Vicon system is needed, to enable it to be used beyond its original purpose, which was for studying walking. The research teams at Southampton have extensive experience in using the Vicon system and the mathematical and computing models, and test protocols needed to study different parts of the body are being developed.
The Vicon system links with other equipment to study forces and muscle activity during movement, providing a more sophisticated level of investigation. 

Project team

Stokes M,  Dr M Warner, Adams J,  Burridge J,  Arden N,  Cooper C

Project funder

Arthritis Research UK Equipment Grant for Vicon Motion Analysis System

Associated research themes

Health Technologies
Motion Analysis

Related research groups

Active Living and Rehabilitation

Conferences and events associated with this project:

Phillips CWG, Forrester AIJ, Purdue AI, Stokes MJ. (2010) Optimisation of a bicycle chainring to aid in rehabilitation of athletes suffering from patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS). 8th Conference of the International Sports Engineering Association (ISEA). Procedia Engineering, 2010; available online

Purdue AI, Forrester AIJ, Taylor M, Stokes MJ, Hansen EA, Rasmussen J. (2010) Efficient human force transmission tailored for the individual cyclist. 8th Conference of the International Sports Engineering Association (ISEA). Procedia Engineering, 2010; available online

Warner, M.B., Mottram, S., Stokes, M.J., Chappell, P.H., Morrissey, D. Use of a passive marker motion capture device for measuring scapular kinematics: a feasibility study. XXII Congress of the International Society of Biomechanics, Cape Town, July 2009. ISBN: 978-0-620-44037-0

Mottram S, Warner M, Chappell P,Morrissey D, Stokes M. Impaired Control of Scapular Rotation during a Clinical Dissociation Test in People with a History of Shoulder Pain. 3rd International Conference on Movement Dysfunction, Edinburgh, October 2009, Manual Therapy, In press

Whittaker J, Warner M, Stokes M. Induced transducer orientation during ultrasound imaging: Effects on abdominal muscle thickness and bladder position. 3rd International Conference on Movement Dysfunction, Edinburgh, October 2009, Manual Therapy, In press

Warner MB, Novellino A, Stokes MJ, Astill S, Pittaluga E. Motor task manager and upper limb reaching task: Validation of movement analysis Gait & Posture 30S (2009) S26–S74 S57

Worsley P, Stokes M, Taylor M. Comparison of Osteoarthritic Knee Kinematics and Kinetics with Age Matched Healthy Individuals Journal of Biomechanics 43S1 (2010) S23–S74 B-15, S29.

Worsley, Peter, Stokes, M. and Taylor, M. (2010) B-15 comparison of osteoarthritic knee kinematics and kinetics with age matched healthy individuals. An International Conference on Orthopaedic Biomechanics, Clinical Applications and Surgery, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, GB

Worsley, Peter, Stokes, M. and Taylor, M. (2010) Robustness of optimised motion capture and musculoskeletal modelling of Gait. AtCMBBE2010 9th International Symposium on Computer Methods in Biomechanics and Biomedical Engineering, Valencia, ES , 3pp.

Worsley, Peter, Stokes, Maria, Taylor, Mark and BioEngineering Group, School of Engineering Sciences (2010) Assessment of muscle atrophy in knee arthroplasty patients using dynamic ultrasound imaging. At 56th Annual Meeting of the Orthopaedic Research Society, United States, US07 - 10 Mar 2010, 1pp

Worsley, Peter, Stokes, Maria and Taylor, Mark (2010) Assessment of knee kinematics and kinetics during gait in healthy older people using optimised motion capture and musculoskeletal modelling. At 9th International Symposium on Computer Methods in Biomechanics and Biomedical Engineering, Valencia, ES 24 - 27 Feb 2010.

Worsley, Peter, Warner, Martin, Delaney, Sinead, Stokes, Maria and Taylor, Mark (2009) The application of ultrasound imaging in the musculoskeletal modeling process. At 55th Annual Meeting of the Orthopaedic Research Society, Las Vegas, USA 22 - 25 Feb 2009. ,1pp, 1501-1501.

Orthopedic Research Society (ORS)
European Society of Biomechanics (ESB)

IMechE Knee Arthroplasty

International Conference on Orthopedic Biomechanics, Clinical Applications and Surgery

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