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PhD Studentship: Pain increases disability; disability increases pain: Understanding the vicious cycle.


Location:  UK Other
Closing Date:  Tuesday 30 April 2024
Reference:  MED1993

Project Description: Pain increases disability; disability increases pain: Understanding the vicious cycle.

Arthritis affects 10 million people in the UK, and is on the rise. Many do not respond adequately to treatment. Pain is the main symptom, a leading cause of disability and worsens the risk of developing other health issues. Reducing pain alone often does not improve disability, and treatments are needed that address both pain and disability.

Our research indicates that pain severity and the associated central nervous system (CNS) dysfunction are linked to current and future physical inactivity. They lead to muscle weakness, mass loss and impaired neuromuscular control. Factors related to the CNS may explain the connection between pain and disability. Addressing the shared risk factors could efficiently reduce both. 

This studentship will explore how CNS links pain with disability. The student will evaluate current evidence by systematic literature review, interview individuals to examine their experiences and beliefs of the interaction between pain and disability, and develop a study measuring patient-reported and quantitative pain outcomes, muscle dysfunction and disability.

Working in the multidisciplinary environment of Pain Centre Versus Arthritis, this project will enable the student to become a mixed methods researcher, developing specific skills, techniques and hands-on experience in evidence synthesis and qualitative and quantitative clinical research.

The student will work within well-funded and vibrant groups with support from world-leading and post-doctoral researchers within the field. You will interact with various fundamental, translational, and industry-led projects, people with lived experience of pain, and partners in the Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre ( 

As a student, you will be registered within the School of Medicine ( and have access to facilities in Schools of Health Sciences ( and the Centre of Metabolism, Ageing, and Physiology (

Funding notes:

The three-year studentship covers tuition fees and a tax-free stipend. Due to funding requirements, only applications from domestic students will be accepted.


Dr Stephanie Smith (Research Fellow, School of Medicine, University of Nottingham) 

Prof David Walsh (Professor of Rheumatology, School of Medicine, University of Nottingham)

Dr Mathew Piasecki (Associate Professor, Centre of Metabolism, Ageing and Physiology School of Medicine, University of Nottingham)

Dr Fiona Moffatt (Associate Professor of Physiotherapy, School of Health Sciences, University of Nottingham)

Application Details: To apply for this PhD opportunity, please submit the following documents to

  • Cover Letter outlining your research interests and motivation to pursue this project.
  • Curriculum Vitae detailing your academic background, research experience and relevant skills.

Entry Requirements:

At least a 2.1 Honours degree in Health Sciences, Allied Health Professions, Sports and Exercise Science, Medicine or any related field.

Essential: The successful candidate will be highly motivated with strong written and verbal communication skills.

Desirable: Some experience with research, including qualitative and quantitative methods, with an MSc or relevant experience in a related field.

Start DateJuly 2024

Informal inquiries can be made to Joe Bass,

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