Our research in the

Intervention Testing theme

The Intervention Testing theme includes research staff, research students and professional staff from a variety of backgrounds including physiotherapy and pharmacy.

When patients seek treatment, they want an intervention that helps them get better (effective), has minimal or manageable side effects (safe), and justifies the money they spend (cost-effective). Providing effective, safe and cost-effective treatments is important to clinicians, health funders and patients. In the Intervention Testing theme, we rigorously evaluate whether treatments are effective, safe and cost-effective to continuously improve the care that patients receive.

Our research has improved the management of musculoskeletal conditions. For example, we have found that for people with certain injuries (chronic whiplash or ankle fracture), simple advice from the physiotherapist is just as effective as a structured exercise program. We have also found that some medicines – such as pregabalin – are not effective and may be harmful in back pain conditions, and this has changed the way these medicines are being recommended in practice.

IMH-led projects

We hope the findings of this project lead to an effective treatment for acute low back pain through reducing pain, increasing mobility, and decreasing use of pain medication.

The aim of this project is to test the effectiveness of a heat wrap therapy by measuring the patient’s use of analgesic medications, clinical outcomes, and adverse events. The participants will wear the heat wrap during waking hours for up to 7 days. Participants will be asked to complete a pain diary over the course of the trial.

This study is currently recruiting. Adult patients will be eligible for this project if they have acute non-specific low back pain of at least moderate pain intensity, and have not previously tried heat wrap therapy for their low back pain.

Principal Investigator:  Dr Christina Abdel Shaheed

Chief Investigators:  Associate Professor Christine Lin, Dr Stephanie Mathieson, Professor Chris Maher, Dr Gustavo Machado, Dr Fiona Stanaway, Professor Andrew McLachlan, Professor Ric Day, Professor Jane Latimer, Dr Adrian Traeger.

For more information about this project, please contact Dr Christina Abdel Shaheed. This study has received ethics approval from the University of Sydney Human Research Ethics Committee and funding from the Sydney Musculoskeletal Bone and Joint Health Alliance.


This project will provide the first robust evidence on the effectiveness of opioids in the treatment of acute low back pain and neck pain. The trial results will improve care for patients suffering acute spinal pain.

Low back pain and neck pain place an enormous burden on patients and health services, both nationally and internationally. Despite the widespread use and recommendations in clinical guidelines, there are no randomised controlled trials that have assessed the effectiveness of opioids for acute low back and neck pain. OPAL is a clinical trial to find out whether opioid analgesics are effective in reducing low back or neck pain, compared to placebo. The opioid analgesic medication– oxycodone – will be taken for up to six weeks. During these six weeks, the participant will be reviewed weekly by a treating physician.

This study is currently recruiting. You may be eligible to participate if you have experienced low back pain and/or neck pain of at least moderate severity within the last 12 weeks, and are considered by your treating doctor as appropriate for opioid analgesia.

Principal Investigator: Associate Professor Christine Lin

Chief Investigators: Professor Chris Maher, Professor Jane Latimer, Associate Professor Laurent Billot, Professor Andrew McLachlan, Professor Ric Day and Professor Bart Koes.

For more information, please contact the OPAL team. The sponsor of this trial is the George Institute. The study has received ethics approval from the University of Sydney Human Research Ethics Committee. OPAL is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council.


We hope the findings of this project provide strategies to prevent the recurrence of low back pain.

The TOPS Trial aims to assess the effectiveness and the cost-effectiveness of exercise and educational classes compared with a back care booklet, for reducing recurrence of low back pain. Participants are randomly allocated to one of two groups: participants allocated to the exercise and education group attend a group-based exercise and education program for 12 weeks, and participants allocated to the booklet group receive a self-management and prevention booklet. You may be eligible to participate in this study if you have recently (within the last three months) recovered from an episode of low back pain.

Principal Investigator: Professor Chris Maher

Co-Investigators: Associate Professor Mark Hancock, Dr Charles New, Professor Jane Latimer and Mr Giovanni Ferreira.

Associate Investigators: Professor Rachelle Buchbinder, Professor Mauritis van Tulder, Associate Professor Christine Lin and Professor Margareth Grotle.

For more information, please contact the TOPS team. The study has received ethics approval from the University of Sydney Human Research Ethics Committee and is funded by WorkCover NSW.


This project aims to investigate the effects of oral glucocorticoids in people with acute sciatica. There is currently no simple, effective treatment to relieve the pain in acute sciatica.

Acute sciatica is a prevalent, debilitating pain condition. Preliminary evidence suggests that taking oral glucocorticoids may relieve pain and improve function in acute sciatica. The OASIS clinical trial will evaluate whether oral glucocorticoids are effective and safe compared to placebo. The medication will be taken for up to 2 weeks. Participants will be followed up for one year to measure leg pain intensity and other important outcomes. We will also assess drug safety and evaluate cost-effectiveness.

This trial is in an early phase and not yet recruiting.

For more information, please contact Dr Juliana Oliveira 

The sponsor of this trial is The University of Sydney. OASIS is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

Principal Investigator: Associate Professor Christine Lin

Chief Investigators: Professor Andrew McLachlan, Professor Jane Latimer, Dr Christina Abdel Shaheed, Mr Qiang Li

Associate Investigators: Dr Bethan Richards, Professor Rachelle Buchbinder, Professor Chris Maher, Professor Ric Day

Theme leader: Associate Professor Christine Lin

BAppSc, BPhty, PGDipHSc, PhD

Associate Professor Christine Lin is a Principal Research Fellow at the Sydney School of Public Health and holds a Career Development Fellowship from the National Health and Medical Research Council. Her research investigates the effectiveness, safety and cost-effectiveness of treatments for people with musculoskeletal conditions, and she has a particular interest in the pharmacological management of back pain. Associate Professor Lin leads several clinical trials and has published in journals such as New England Journal of Medicine, Lancet and JAMA. She has a professional background in physiotherapy.