Back pain is currently the leading cause of disability worldwide. At present, one fifth or 650 million people are suffering from low back pain. Low back pain directly impacts a person’s ability to perform simple daily activities and it is the main reason driving Australians out of the work force. It is estimated that low back pain results in over 72 million years lived with disability.

The back pain research theme is currently led by Professor Manuela Ferreira. Her team investigates the mechanisms and management of low back pain in the older population. Her work includes establishing the causes and prognosis of back pain in older persons and identifying the effectiveness of conservative and surgical care for back pain.

We are a highly collaborative research team, engaging with researchers across a wide variety of disciplines. Working closely with multidisciplinary teams, including the Osteoarthritis Research Team, we are committed to designing and testing innovative, accessible, technology-based interventions that could speed recovery and decrease the burden of musculoskeletal pain globally. Our vision is to promote health and quality of life for the millions of people who experience back pain.

Our research focuses on evaluating common treatments for back pain, and developing innovative interventions including the use of digital health technology to improve management for the condition.

Our Team Is Working to:

  • Investigate the causes of low back pain
  • Improve management of low back pain by evaluating common treatments for the condition, and
  • Improve the quality of life for people experiencing back pain


Our people

Professional staff
  • Joanna Prior (Clinical Trials Coordinator)
  • Emma Ho (Research Assistant)
  • Alessandra Cory Marcelo (Research Assistant)
  • David Anderson (Clinical Trials Coordinator)
Research students
  • Carolina Gassen Fritsch
  • David Anderson
  • Lingxiao Chen
  • Ana Salles dos Reis (visiting student)
  • Riyaas A. Mohamed
  • Carlos Ivan Mesa Castrillon


  • Surgery for Spinal Stenosis (SUcceSS) – the world’s first placebo-controlled trial of spinal surgery for people with lumbar spinal stenosis.
  • Text4MyBack – a study using text messages to support recovery for people suffering from back pain.
  • TANGO – a study aimed at tapering opioid medication use in older people with back pain, hip or knee osteoarthritis.
  • Development of a multidisciplinary model of care to reduce unnecessary surgery for low back pain.
  • Development of a media campaign to improve awareness among patients and clinicians of evidence-based management options for back pain
  • Get Back to Healthy trial – a study investigating whether a discharge support system involving a health coaching intervention,delivered by the Get Healthy Service, can help support people with low back pain to keep healthy and reduce their use of additional health care after completing a program of hospital outpatient physiotherapy.
  • The EMPoweR study – a randomised clinical trial about eHealth to empower patients with musculoskeletal pain in rural Australia.