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Improving rehabilitation and clinical outcomes for musculoskeletal conditions

Man in wheel chair with his young daughter enjoying a summer day image

We are a small team of researcher-clinicians employed by the University of Otago's Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Musculoskeletal Medicine, based in Christchurch.

Our team undertakes research contributing to the rehabilitation of people with congenital and chronic musculoskeletal conditions, as well as those who undergo joint replacement surgeries or have experienced significant musculoskeletal injuries, such as tetraplegia and other spinal injuries. Our research focus includes rehabilitation to enable participation in family and community life, as well as employment.

As individuals, we each work in other teams providing direct clinical services for people living with and recovering from musculoskeletal conditions. Our experience in clinical practice critically informs our approach to research, and our aim is to accelerate the translation of research into clinical application and to use patient reported outcomes to help guide the next direction of research.

Our clinical backgrounds are in physiotherapy and clinical neuropsychology.

ReClaiM research

We use a number of research approaches, depending on the topic of investigation, such as:

  • Single-arm trials of orthopaedic devices and treatments;
  • Realist synthesis and evaluation of rehabilitation programmes and of outcomes reported by patients;
  • Quantitative approaches to evaluating outcomes of musculoskeletal conditions;
  • Qualitative approaches to understanding outcomes in complex health conditions;
  • Mixed methods approaches to understanding outcomes in complex health conditions.

Some of our current research projects include:

  • Early vocational rehabilitation – aiming to explain what works, when, how and why, and for whom – supporting people with acquired neurological impairment to return to work (the "EVOCs study") (sponsored by the Health Research Council of New Zealand);
  • Contributing to the development of new Australasian clinical practice guidelines for the physiotherapy management of people with spinal cord injuries (sponsored by Physiotherapy New Zealand);
  • A ten-year assessment of a cementless total knee arthroplasty system (sponsored by Johnson and Johnson, New Zealand);
  • A five-year project focusing on optimising outcomes after concussion (sponsored by the Health Research Council of New Zealand);
  • Understanding the role of rehabilitation in outcomes following joint replacement (the "ROR study");
  • Understanding impacts of co-occurring traumatic brain injury on spinal cord injury outcomes;
  • Monitoring long-term outcomes of patients undergoing joint replacement in Christchurch;
  • Surgical and rehabilitation techniques to improve upper limb reconstructive surgery in people with tetraplegia.

A growing body of research has been published by our ReClaiM team.

See our ReClaiM publications

Our people

Associate Professor Deborah Snell, Research Associate Professor
Deborah also works as the Director of Clinical Trials at the Canterbury Orthopaedic and Bone Research Association (COBRA), as well as leading the Concussion Clinic at the Brain Injury Rehabilitation Service at Burwood Hospital and providing locum concussion services to Habit Rehabilitation and Motus Health.

Dr Jennifer Dunn, Senior Research Fellow
Jen also works as a Senior Physiotherapist for Southern Rehab Canterbury and as a Coordinator for Upper Limb Reconstructive Surgery for Tetraplegia at Burwood Hospital.

Dr Jo Nunnerley, Research Fellow
Jo also works as the Director and Knowledge Translation Specialist for the Burwood Academy of Independent Learning (BAIL) based at Burwood Hospital.

Find us

Our ReClaiM team can be found in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Musculoskeletal Medicine on the lower ground floor of the Christchurch Hospital, Wednesdays only. The rest of the time we are on the move working in our various other clinical and research roles.

Find the Christchurch Hospital at 2 Riccarton Avenue, Christchurch.

Contact us

Associate Professor Deborah Snell

Dr Jennifer Dunn

Dr Jo Nunnerley

Related info

Our people

Debbie SnellAssociate Professor Deborah Snell

Jenninfer DunnDr Jennifer Dunn

Jo NunnerleyDr Jo Nunnerley

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