Back pain


Back pain is very common and is the leading cause of disability worldwide. It can range from a dull, constant ache to a sudden, sharp pain that makes it hard to move. Back pain can start quickly if you fall or lift something too heavy and for others it can get worse slowly. Treatments usually involve some form of regular exercise, it doesn’t seem to matter which type of exercise or whether it is done at the gym or at home. The longer someone has back pain the more difficult it is to treat successfully and many do not fully recover, although the outlook is still positive.

Preventing people from developing long-term low back pain may be a more effective approach than trying to treat it once they have back pain. Luckily most episodes of back pain get better quickly. Keeping active, getting informed and avoiding bed rest usually speeds up recovery.

About our research
Our research is directed towards first understanding why some people with a low back pain don’t recover and develop longer term, or chronic, low back pain. We are developing and testing new interventions to treat those that already have chronic pain and approaches to prevent people from developing chronic pain in the first place. We are proposing that treatments targeting the brain in addition to traditional treatments might be more effective for reducing chronic low back pain. We are also proposing that rather than waiting to treat patients who already have chronic low back pain, much better outcomes are likely to be achieved if we intervene early to reduce the risk of developing chronic low back pain after an acute episode.

To participate in our research

Please contact the research team:
Phone: 02 9399 1627

Community presentations

Associate Professor James McAuley, Senior Research Scientist and head of the Pain, Research, Education and Management Program at NeuRA, has a strong philosophy of taking knowledge obtained by research beyond the confines of academia and into the community.

To achieve this, James and his research team have been giving presentations to community groups on “New ways to prevent and treat back pain”.

The presentations are popular and well received with up to 120 people attending each event. It runs for one hour, with an additional 20mins allocated to questions. The presentations are free of charge.

If you are interested in booking Assoc Professor McAuley and his team for a presentation, please contact Pauline Zahara – or 9399 1049.





For people with long term back pain that is not getting better. We are testing two pain treatment programs that target the brain, for people with chronic low back pain.


For people with back pain who are having trouble with their sleep. We are testing whether a simple sleep tablet will help people reduce their pain and sleep better.


For people with a new low back pain episode. We are testing early intervention to reduce the risk of developing chronic low back pain.

What else is happening in Back pain research at NeuRA?