News

New Research Laboratory to combat chronic pain and disability


3 June 2011

Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir AC CVO, Chancellor of the University of Sydney and Governor of NSW, officially opened the University of Sydney's new Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Research Laboratory in a ceremony held at the Faculty of Health Sciences last night.

The new laboratory - which integrates basic and clinical research to ensure the relevance and applicability of findings - aims to develop pioneering interventions to prevent, minimise or manage injury, chronic disease and disability.

The dedicated team of multidisciplinary researchers is working to solve some of the alarming health problems facing Australians including;

  • 1/3 of people over 50-years-old experience pain from osteoarthritis in the knee
  • Back pain costs Australia $9.0 billion per annum
  • Neck pain and dizziness are two of the most commonly reported symptoms

Prof Refshauge & Chancellor of the University of Sydney, Prof Bashir touring the Lab
Prof Refshauge & Chancellor of the University of Sydney, Prof Bashir touring the Lab


"While back pain or osteoarthritis may seem insignificant in terms of disease, these types of conditions are highly prevalent and place a significant personal and economic burden on individuals and the wider community, both in terms of productivity and quality of life," said Director of the Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Laboratory, Professor Kathryn Refshauge.

"However at the same time many musculoskeletal conditions are largely preventable and that is why our research is so important."

Under the direction of Professor Refshauge, the Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Research Group have established themselves as a leader in this national health priority area, with a particular focus on back and neck pain, foot and ankle disorders, hip and groin, arthritis and pediatrics.

At the opening, Chief Executive of the Sydney Children's Hospital Network, Elizabeth Koff spoke of the exciting potential of collaboration between the Network and the new Laboratory, and how critical allied health care and research is to the health and wellbeing of patients.

"I am sure we all agree that this is a very important aspect of care, especially when those patients are children and young people who need the very best chance at life," she said.

The Laboratory is currently conducting a number of studies, including cutting edge research that aims to, for the first time, uncover the real cause of back and neck pain by examining the pathology of pain and psychological factors.

L to R: Prof North, Prof Refshauge, Ms. Koff and Dean of Health Sciences, Prof Llewellyn
L to R: Prof North, Prof Refshauge, Ms. Koff and Dean of Health Sciences, Prof Llewellyn

The Group has also recently completed a large epidemiological study of people in rural and metropolitan NSW and found that a staggering 20 per cent of people have ongoing disability as a result of previous ankle injury.

"We have found that the majority of people do not seek ongoing treatment from health professionals as current treatment and rehabilitation appears not to be effective in the long term," comments Professor Refshauge. "We are now investigating why some of these acute ankle injuries become chronic - what goes wrong - and then designing new treatments to provide effective cure."

Prof North participating in demonstrations in the Lab
Prof North participating in demonstrations in the Lab

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Contact: Professor Kathryn Refshauge

Phone: 02 9036 7305