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.

Surgery for musculoskeletal conditions is among the fastest growing procedures across the world, however, more surgery does not necessarily mean more recovered patients. Professor Manuela Ferreira designed and currently leads the world’s first placebo-controlled randomised trial of surgery for spinal stenosis, an NHMRC-funded project. With 2018 Sydney Research Accelerator (SOAR) prize , she plans to develop the Placebo Surgery Research Network at the Kolling Institute, as well as continue producing high quality scientific evidence in the field of musculoskeletal surgery.



  • SUcceSS -surgery for spinal stenosis: a randomised controlled trial for back pain
  • TEXT4myBACK – a text message intervention for low back pain
  • PATHway – participatory health through behavioural engagement and disruptive digital technology for post-operative rehabilitation
  • Network meta-analyses on management of spinal pain
  • Predictors of revision surgery for spinal stenosis
  • Management of vertebral fragility fracture

Our people

Professional staff
  • Mr David Anderson
  • Ms Sarah Capistrano
  • Ms Ana Paula Carvalho
  • Mr Antonio Gregorio
  • Ms Joanna Prior
Project manager
  • Dr Sarah Robbins
PhD students
  • Mr David Anderson
  • Mr Carlos Mesa Castrillon
  • Mr Lingxiao Chen
  • Ms Carolina Gassen Fritsch
  • Ms Emma Ho
Visiting students
  • Ms Anna Salles
National Collaborators
International Collaborators
  • Prof Paul Mork – Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway
  • Prof Tom-Ivar Nilsen – Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway
  • Prof David Beard – University of Oxford, UK
  • Prof Teppo Jarvinen – University of Helsinki, Finland
  • Prof Sita Bierma-Zeinstra – Erasmus MC, The Netherlands
  • Prof Jan Hartvigsen – University of Southern Denmark, Denmark

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