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Research into physiotherapy for musculoskeletal conditions

Musculoskeletal problems are the leading cause of pain and disability in the UK. Characterised by pain and loss of function, these conditions can diminish quality of life, impact on family and social relationships, make everyday activities difficult and limit a person’s capacity to work. Physiotherapy is important for preventing and reducing the negative impacts of musculoskeletal conditions. 

Moving Forward provides an overview of research funded by the NIHR and others, focusing on physiotherapy and the role of physical activity in treating these conditions and maintaining musculoskeletal health and wellbeing. The research featured shows that physiotherapy services can improve patients lives and reduce healthcare costs.

DOI: 10.3310/themedreview-02995

Moving forward front cover

Moving Forward - Physiotherapy for Musculoskeletal Health and Wellbeing

This review highlights evidence from the NIHR and others on why research in this area matters, assessment and matching patients to treatment, restoring musculoskeletal health and maintaining musculoskeletal wellbeing.

It features:

  • 37 published studies
  • 25 ongoing research projects
  • Questions to ask your physiotherapy musculoskeletal services


One in four

Musculoskeletal conditions are the leading cause of pain and disability, affecting more than one in four people in the UK.

30.8 million

Working days are lost due to musculoskeletal problems – the second leading cause of sickness absence at work.

Third highest

Caring for patients with musculoskeletal conditions is the third highest area of NHS spend.

  • This review brings together important current and impactful musculoskeletal research, giving clear direction to patients, physiotherapists, researchers, commissioners and planners of physiotherapy services... (It) is a celebration of how the quality and impact of musculoskeletal research is delivering improvements in the quality of patient care. I hope it will serve as a springboard for wider engagement in research, evaluation and implementation.

    Karen Middleton, Chief Executive, Chartered Society of Physiotherapy

  • This report underlines the scope of musculoskeletal disease and management. Importantly, it considers the research necessary to define the most effective interventions in particular presentations of musculoskeletal disease. NIHR-funded and other research will continue to drive the development of the most effective prevention, intervention and self-management in musculoskeletal conditions, allowing better access and improved support for the current patients and preventing significant musculoskeletal disease in the future.

    Peter Kay, National Clinical Director, Musculoskeletal Services, NHS England

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