Musculoskeletal SIG

SIG name


SIG leaders

List of local Investigators (name and affiliation)

  • Prof Leon Straker, Curtin University
  • Prof Ben Wand, Notre Dame University
  • Assoc Prof Anne Smith, Curtin University
  • Assoc Prof Bruce Walker, Murdoch University
  • Dr Andrew Claus, University of Queensland
  • Dr Amity Campbell, Curtin University
  • Dr Pieter Coenen, VU Medical Centre, the Netherlands
  • Dr Ashleigh Thornton, University of Western Australia
  • Dr Jodi Cochrane Wilkie, Edith Cowan University
  • Dr William Gibson, Notre Dame University

Overview of current/recent SIG activity

Recent and current research on musculoskeletal topics using Raine Study data has been diverse:

  • There have been eight varied papers on spinal pain, including trajectories of low back pain across adolescence, the impacts of back pain and its relationship to posture.
  • Similarly, there have been a number of papers on pain and its relationship to work productivity and mental health conditions.
  • More broadly in pain, there have been six papers looking a pain sensitivity and its health correlates and antecedents.

Overview of the current data resources available in the SIG area

The first musculoskeletal measures occurred when the participants were 14 years of age and musculoskeletal measures have been undertaken at every measurement time point since. The main focus has been on pain, pain sensitivity, pain-related activity limitation, posture, strength and pain-related cognitions.

At a glance: Musculoskeletal Variables

Outline of SIG plans for next 5 years

  • Future data collection is scheduled to continue the collection of data on spinal pain, and to include more detailed information on the hip and knee.
  • The newly formed Musculoskeletal SIG is currently in a planning phase to identify the best use of the current data and best directions for additional data collection over the next 5 years.

Brief list of potential student/early career researcher projects

Please contact the Musculoskeletal  SIG Leaders if you are interested in a research project incorporating Musculoskeletal data and they will coordinate whom to contact within the group.

  • Potential PhD Project: Inflammatory mediators in pain in the Raine Study – Recent research in the Raine cohort identified that a lower cortisol response to stress is associated with musculoskeletal pain and also with increased pain sensitivity in young female adults (Paananen et al 2015). Similarly, pain sensitivity has been documented in women with moderate or severe menstrual pain (Slater et al 2015). The underlying mechanisms for these phenomena may be alterations in HPA-axis function and inflammatory/immune changes altering regulation of pain pathways. The Raine study provides an opportunity to further investigate this premise. For additional information contact Dr Darren Beales (
  • Potential PhD Project: An in-depth investigation of work productivity in the Raine Study – Recent research has identified an association between comorbidity of spinal pain and mental ill-health on work productivity in the Raine Study (Beales et all 2017). Previous projects have only begun to explore the depth of the work data in the Raine cohort. Opportunity exists for an interested person to perform a series of studies that provides a detailed analysis of factors related to work productivity in the Raine Cohort Study (eg, individual, health and workplace factors). For additional information contact Dr Darren Beales (
  • Potential PhD Project: Pain and sleep in the Raine Study – Pain and sleep are related in a bidirectional manner. To date, pain studies of the Raine Study cohort have used questionnaires to measurement sleep. However, at the 22 years of age follow-up, the Raine Study cohort underwent extensive laboratory-based sleep analysis. As a consequence, opportunities exist for a highly-detailed examination of the relationships between sleep and pain. For additional information contact Dr Darren Beales (

List of National/International Collaborating Investigators (name and affiliation)

  • National Collaborating Investigators

 – Dr Andrew Claus, The University of Queensland

– Associate Professor G David Champion, Sydney Children’s Hospita

–  Ms Theresa Donnelly, Sydney Children’s Hospital

–   Dr Christopher Williams, University of Newcastle

– Ms Ashton Curry-Hyde, University of NSW

– Dr Steven Kamper, University of Sydney

– Dr Andrew Teichtahl, Alfred Hospital

– Professor Flavia Cicuttini, Monash University

– Dr Yuanyuan Wang, Monash University

– Professor Martha Hickey, The Royal Women’s Hospital

– Professor Tim Olds, University of South Australia

– Dr Grant Tomkinson, University of South Australia

– Dr Natasha Schranz, University of South Australia

  • International Collaborating Investigators

– Dr Karina Allen, Maudsley NHS, UK

– Ms Natasja Lammars, Groningen University, The Netherlands

– Professor Jaro Karpinnen, University of Oulu, Finland

– Dr Markus Paananen, University of Oulu, Finland

– Dr Jan Sture Skouen, University of Bergen, Norway

Top 5-10 key findings (with reference)

  • Low back pain has substantial impact for some individuals at age 17, including missing school and reduced activity participation.  O’Sullivan PB, Beales DJ, Smith AJ, Straker LM. Low back pain in 17 year olds has substantial impact and represents an important public health disorder: a cross-sectional study. BMC Public Health. 2012;12(1):100.
  •  4 distinct trajectories of low back pain and its impact through adolescence to early adulthood have been identified; consistently low, decreasing, increasing, and consistently high.  Coenen P, Smith A, Paananen M, O’Sullivan P, Beales D, Straker L. Trajectories of Low Back Pain from Adolescence to Young Adulthood. Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2017;69(3):403-12.
  • Comorbidity of spinal pain and mental ill-health is associated with increased absence from work at 22 years of age, but not reduced productivity while at work.  Beales D, Kyaw-Myint S, Smith A, O’Sullivan P, Pransky G, Linton S, et al. Work Productivity Loss in Young Workers Is Substantial and Is Associated With Spinal Pain and Mental Ill-health Conditions. J Occup Environ Med. 2017;59(3):237-45.
  • Cervical spine posture at 17 is not associated with neck pain or headaches.  Richards KV, Beales DJ, Smith AJ, O’Sullivan PB, Straker LM. Neck Posture Clusters and Their Association with Biopsychosocial Factors and Neck Pain in Australian Adolescents. Phys Ther. 2016;96(10):1576-87.
  • Women with moderate or severe menstrual pain (age 20 and 22) have increased pain sensitivity, with indications of both peripheral and central neurophysiological mechanisms.    Slater H, Paananen M, Smith AJ, O’Sullivan P, Briggs AM, Hickey M, Mountain J, Karppinen J, Beales, D. Heightened cold pain and pressure pain sensitivity in young female adults with moderate-to-severe menstrual pain. Pain. 2015;156(12):2468-78.

List of indicative recent publications

In addition to the above:

  • Hoogwout SJ, Paananen MV, Smith AJ, Beales DJ, O’Sullivan PB, Straker LM, et al. Musculoskeletal pain is associated with restless legs syndrome in young adults. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2015;16:294.
  • Paananen M, O’Sullivan P, Straker L, Beales D, Coenen P, Karppinen J, Pennel C, Smith A. A low cortisol response to stress is associated with musculoskeletal pain combined with increased pain sensitivity in young adults: a longitudinal cohort study. Arthritis research & therapy. 2015;17:355.
  • Smith AJ, O’Sullivan PB, Beales D, Straker L. Back pain beliefs are related to the impact of low back pain in 17-year-olds. Phys Ther. 2012;92(10):1258-67.
  • Smith AJ, O’Sullivan PB, Beales DJ, de Klerk N, Straker LM. Trajectories of childhood body mass index are associated with adolescent sagittal standing posture. Int J Pediatr Obes. 2011;6(2-2):e97-106.
  • Waller R, Straker L, O’Sullivan P, Sterling M, Smith A. Reliability of pressure pain threshold testing in healthy pain free young adults. Scand J Pain. 2015;9:38-41.
  • Waller R, Smith AJ, O’Sullivan PB, Slater H, Sterling M, McVeigh JA, Straker LM. Pressure and cold pain threshold reference values in a large, young adult, pain-free population. Scandinavian Journal of Pain 13 (2016) 114–122
  • Beales D, Smith A, O’Sullivan P, Straker L. Low back pain and comorbidity clusters at 17 years of age: a cross-sectional examination of health related quality of life and specific low back pain impacts   J Adolesc Health. 2012;50:509-516.

List of current/recent grants


Examples of recent media