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Institute for Life SciencesHealth & Medicine


Our rehabilitation research aims to assess, support and aid people in reaching their potential in terms of their physical mobility and function. We do this through understanding the mechanisms underlying rehabilitation, developing science-based assistive technologies and improved techniques, and ensuring that the latest research is communicated to  the next generation of allied health professionals.

Image credit: Prof Jo Adams

Researchers across the University in Health Sciences, Engineering and Electronics are combining their expertise to further our understanding of how people recover from adverse events such as injury or stroke and how people can better manage chronic conditions such as Arthritis. Working with key international institutions and industry partners we are developing new ways of assisting in that recovery.

Our studies include the assessment of movement and interventions to improve mobility. They investigate why recovery varies between individuals and aim to devise tailored programs to ensure patients are able to participate as fully as they can in daily activities.

The research varies from using electrodes to stimulate upper limb movement following stroke, to using virtual reality games to assess torso movements, to using dance to improve mobility and balance in people with Parkinson’s, to developing sensors that can build a picture of how we live in our homes, so we can spot issues that might indicate a medical problem. No matter what the project, our goal remains the same, which is to improve rehabilitation which may lead to a better quality of life for patients, helping  them to adapt to problems and deal with the emotional and social consequences of their condition.

A unique strength of our rehabilitation research is it underpins our professional teaching. We believe that the next generation of Allied Health Professionals should be equipped with the latest research in their field, but crucially also have the opportunity to contribute to it. Some of our research studies, which are positively impacting on people’s lives, started as PhD projects or student ideas. Students are taught by our interdisciplinary researchers who influence our teaching modules.


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Please see a selection of postgraduate courses related to this subject area below. 

For the full range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses at the University of Southampton, please visit our courses webpages

MSc Physiotherapy (pre-registration)

This pre-registration course provides a masters degree in the science that underpins physiotherapy as well as eligibility to apply to register as a physiotherapist.

MSc Amputation & Prosthetic Rehabilitation

This Masters in Health Sciences - Amputation & Prosthetic Rehabilitationis a flexible programme of higher level study that is suitable for both clinicians and non-clinicians.

MSc Biomedical Engineering

This masters course will equip you with the specialist knowledge, expertise and skills to integrate biology and medicine with engineering to solve problems related to living systems.

MSc Biodevices

This degree programme includes the scientific and engineering principles underpinning micro and nanoscale technologies with options to specialise in areas such as biodevices.

MSc Health Psychology

Explore how psychological knowledge can improve wellbeing and manage chronic disorders with our MSc in Health Psychology.

MPhil/PhD by research in Psychology

The PhD by research in Psychology provides an opportunity to engage in world class research. Students will, with the support of a supervisory team, develop and conduct novel research in Psychology.

Image credit: Dr Kai Yang
Image credit: Dr Kai Yang

Stroke rehabilitation clothing 

Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) of muscles is a technology that helps people who have had a stroke to re-learn lost skills, by enabling them to practice and regain arm movement. It works by stimulating nerves, with electrical pulses via electrodes placed on the skin, which cause muscles to contract. However, the technology is difficult to place and can be uncomfortable. Applying the right amount of stimulation to produce functional movements is also extremely challenging.

Working with people who have had a stroke, their carers, engineers and healthcare professionals, our researchers are using printed electronic technology to design and develop garments with embedded electrodes that will specifically fit an individual's arm and their specific needs. Different designs, including cuff or armbands, sleeves and long-sleeved T-shirts have been evaluated and an optimised design of a sleeve has already been developed and tested on people who had a stroke. The clothing is operated using a wireless control system combined with sensors which automatically adjusts the FES to enable precise activities, such as assisting eating, washing and dressing. This uses sensor data to learn and adapt from past experience, to provide the optimal support.

Our aim is to bring affordable, effective physical therapy to people who have had a stroke, in their own homes, allowing them to have effective rehabilitation in a comfortable way, without needing a carer or therapist. This would increase the intensity of rehabilitation without an increase in clinical contact time.

Contacts:  Dr John TudorProf Steve BeebyDr Ann-Marie Hughes , Prof Chris Freeman, Dr Kai Yang

Image credit: Prof Jo Adams and Prof Jane Burridge
Image credit: Prof Jo Adams

Combating thumb-based Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis (OA) is one of the leading causes of musculoskeletal pain and disability in adults aged 50 years and over. OA found in the thumb will affect around 20 per cent of people aged over 55 years old and has the potential to have more lasting pain, work disability, reduction in quality of life and overall function than other hand sites affected by OA.

Despite the pain and discomfort, it causes people, there is very little research into how best to treat and manage it.

Working with clinicians and healthcare professionals, our researchers are leading a multicentre clinical trial to assess the effectiveness of using of thumb splints for people with thumb base OA. Participants will be randomized into one of three groups of self-management; self-management plus a supportive splint, or self-management plus a mobilising splint.

The study will give vital evidence of the management of thumb base OA and add to understanding contextual aspects of rehabilitation and self-management strategies for OA.

Contact: Prof Jo Adams

Regaining arm movement after stroke

Around 150,000 people in the UK have a stroke each year and, despite improvements in acute care that results in better survival rates, about 60 per cent of people with moderate to severe strokes fail to recover useful function of their arm and hand.

Southampton scientists, in the fields of Health Sciences and electronics have developed new wearable technology in the form of a sleeve, to help people who have had a stroke recover use of their arm and hand. The wireless sleeve provides automatic, intelligent information about muscle movement and strength while patients practice every-day tasks at home. The Southampton team have worked with Imperial College London, two NHS Trusts in Bristol and Portsmouth and two commercial entities.

The wearable technology is the first to incorporate mechanomyography (MMG) microphone-like sensors that detect the vibration of a muscle when it contracts, and inertial measurement units (IMU), comprising tri-axial accelerometers, gyroscopes and magnetometers that detect movement. Data from the two types of sensors are combined and then data that is not needed, for example outside noise, is removed from the muscle signal.

The feedback to patients is presented on a user-friendly computer interface as an accurate representation of their movement, showing them how much they have improved. The patient’s therapists are also provided information in a separate format for clinical decision-making, treatment and progress and therefore increase efficiency and effectiveness of therapy.

Our aim is to provide a cost-effective wearable technology that will help stroke patients regain the use of their arm and hand, reduce time spent with therapists and allow them to have the recommended 45 minutes daily therapy more flexibly in their own homes rather than a clinical setting.

Contacts:  Prof Jane Burridge

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