Low back pain (LBP) during pregnancy: an exploration of biomechanical precipitating factors using non-invasive telemetric sensing of gait and everyday physical activities

Summary

Over two-thirds of women experience LBP during pregnancy, with symptoms typically increasing as pregnancy advances1. Women often have a history of simple LBP, and continue to experience symptoms after birth2, which directly adds to the substantial cost associated with LBP in the general population3,4. This, along with reports of high relapse rates in later pregnancies5, underlines the importance of identifying and directing women to the most appropriate treatment as early as possible. A UK-wide survey of women receiving maternity care found that many; felt frustrated that their LBP symptoms were not taken seriously, did not receive any treatment, and consequently opted to use over-the-counter painkillers to manage their symptoms, despite concerns about the unknown effects these may have on the foetus2.

In order to better understand the condition and develop safe and effective treatments, more studies are needed to explore the underlying causes and development of symptoms as much still remains unclear6. Current evidence indicates there is no clear causal relationship between levels of the hormone relaxin and pregnancy-related LBP7, so it would seem appropriate to explore some of the other theories and risk factors mentioned above.

Therefore, this project aims to explore whether a relationship exists between changes in the way pregnant women walk and carry out other usual daily activities and the development of LBP, and if any changes observed are associated with a sizeable reduction in levels of daily physical activity.

Methods to be used:

1)Systematic review of studies investigating the causes and development of pregnancy-related LBP.

2)Online survey or Focus groups / semi-structured interviews exploring pregnant womens’ understanding and experiences of pregnancy-related LBP and how they managed their symptoms.

3)Prospective case-controlled study using wearable sensors to analyse gait and activity levels in pregnant women.

4)Use of above listed methods above to inform the design of an intervention and find out whether it can be practically delivered in a typical healthcare setting.

AccessNI clearance required

Please note, the successful candidate will be required to obtain AccessNI clearance prior to registration due to the nature of the project.

Essential criteria

Applicants should hold, or expect to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class Honours Degree in a subject relevant to the proposed area of study.

We may also consider applications from those who hold equivalent qualifications, for example, a Lower Second Class Honours Degree plus a Master’s Degree with Distinction.

In exceptional circumstances, the University may consider a portfolio of evidence from applicants who have appropriate professional experience which is equivalent to the learning outcomes of an Honours degree in lieu of academic qualifications.

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • Masters at 65%
  • Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain

Funding and eligibility

The University offers the following levels of support:

Vice Chancellors Research Studentship (VCRS)

Full award (full-time PhD fees + DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £18,000 (tbc) maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance).

This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

Applicants who already hold a doctoral degree or who have been registered on a programme of research leading to the award of a doctoral degree on a full-time basis for more than one year (or part-time equivalent) are NOT eligible to apply for an award.

Applicants who already hold a doctoral degree or who have been registered on a programme of research leading to the award of a doctoral degree on a full-time basis for more than one year (or part-time equivalent) are NOT eligible to apply for an award.

Vice-Chancellor’s Research Bursary (VCRB)

Part award (full-time PhD fees + 50% DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £8,000 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

Applicants who already hold a doctoral degree or who have been registered on a programme of research leading to the award of a doctoral degree on a full-time basis for more than one year (or part-time equivalent) are NOT eligible to apply for an award.

Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fees Bursary (VCRFB)

Fees only award (PhD fees + RTSG for 3 years).

This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

Applicants who already hold a doctoral degree or who have been registered on a programme of research leading to the award of a doctoral degree on a full-time basis for more than one year (or part-time equivalent) are NOT eligible to apply for an award.

Department for the Economy (DFE)

The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £18,000 (tbc) per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance).

This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

  • Candidates with pre-settled or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, who also satisfy a three year residency requirement in the UK prior to the start of the course for which a Studentship is held MAY receive a Studentship covering fees and maintenance.
  • Republic of Ireland (ROI) nationals who satisfy three years’ residency in the UK prior to the start of the course MAY receive a Studentship covering fees and maintenance (ROI nationals don’t need to have pre-settled or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme to qualify).
  • Other non-ROI EU applicants are ‘International’ are not eligible for this source of funding.
  • Applicants who already hold a doctoral degree or who have been registered on a programme of research leading to the award of a doctoral degree on a full-time basis for more than one year (or part-time equivalent) are NOT eligible to apply for an award.

Due consideration should be given to financing your studies. Further information on cost of living

Recommended reading

1. Liddle SD, Pennick VE. Interventions for preventing and treating low-back and pelvic pain during pregnancy. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2015, Issue 9. Art. No.: CD001139. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD001139.pub4

2. Sinclair M, Close C, McCullough JEM, Hughes C, Liddle SD. How do women manage pregnancy-related low back and / or pelvic pain? Descriptive findings from an online survey. Evidence Based Midwifery 2014; 12 (3): 76-82.

3. Becker A, Held H, et al. Low back pain in primary care: costs of care and prediction of future health care utilization. Spine 2010; doi:10.1097/BRS.0b013e3181cd656f

4. Hoy D, March L, et al. The global burden of low back pain: estimates from the Global Burden of Disease 2010 study. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases 2014; doi:10.1136/annrheumdis-2013-204428

5. Mogren IM, Pohanen AI. Low back pain and pelvic pain during pregnancy: Prevalence and risk factors. Spine 2005; 30 (8): 983-991.

6. Vermani E, Mittal R, Weeks A. Pelvic girdle pain and low back pain in pregnancy: a review. Pain Practice 2010 10(1): 60-71.

7. Aldabe D, Ribeiro DC, et al. Pregnancy-related pelvic girdle pain and its relationship with relaxin levels during pregnancy: a systematic review. European Spine Journal 2012 21(9): 1769-1776

The Doctoral College at Ulster University

Key dates

Submission deadline
Monday 6 February 2023
04:00PM

Interview Date
20th - 22nd March 2023

Preferred student start date
18th September 2023

Applying

Apply Online  

Contact supervisor

Dr Dianne Liddle

Other supervisors

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