This research team investigates underlying physiological and psychological features associated with neck pain in the general population, the working population, those experiencing persistent headaches, or suffered head or neck trauma.  Findings assist in the development of innovative approaches to the diagnosis and management of features associated with persistent neck problems. 

Key research activities

Our research looks at the inter-relationships between pain, motor and kinematic function, cervical somatosensory function and psychological responses in traumatic and idiopathic models of neck pain including:

  • whiplash associated disorders
  • insidious onset neck pain
  • cervical and axioscapular muscle function
  • cervicogenic headache
  • cervicogenic dizziness
  • concussion
  • safety in manual therapy, vertebral artery insufficiency and dissection
  • translational education research
  • work-related/occupational neck conditions - prevention and management
  • neck pain in the elderly, neck pain in head and neck cancer
  • development of physiotherapy interventions for cervical spine disorders.

Group members

Team founder

Emeritus Professor Gwendolen Jull

Team members

Dr Julia Treleaven
Dr Venerina Johnston
Dr Shaun O’Leary
Dr Lucy Thomas

Research assistants

Kate Croft
Jessica Harrison
Alyssa Welch

Research Higher Degree Candidates:




Project Title/Description

Deokhoon Hun


Dr Shaun O’Leary, A/Prof Venerina Johnston

A longitudinal study of risk factors for non-specific neck pain in office workers

Xiaoqi Chen


A/Prof Venerina Johnston, Dr Shaun O’Leary,

Prevention and reduction of neck pain in office workers: characteristics, contributing factors, and impact of a workplace-based exercise and ergonomic intervention

Michelle Pereira


A/Prof Venerina Johnston, A/Prof Tracy Comans

Workplace intervention for productivity enhancement of office workers

Yaheli Bet-or

MPhil / PhD

A/Prof Venerina Johnston, Dr Shaun O’Leary,

Is there a difference in scapular kinematics between people with chronic mechanical neck pain and healthy individuals?

Olivia Galea

MPhil/ PhD

Dr Shaun O’Leary,

Dr Julia Treleaven

Do impairments exist beyond expected recovery time following Mild Traumatic Brain Injury and what is their relationship with self-reported symptoms


June Quek


Dr Julia Treleaven

Professor Sandy Brauer

Dr Ross Clark

The Influence of Cervical Spine Dysfunction on Postural Control.


Peter Window


Dr Shaun O’Leary,

Dr Kylie Tucker, Professor Paul Hodges

Can Kinematic based measures of the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex detect differences in motor function in individuals with chronic low back pain and healthy controls?

Elise Gane


Dr Shaun O’Leary,

Dr Steven McPhail, Dr Anna Hatton

Identifying risk factors for poor functional recovery of the neck and shoulder (neck/shoulder) after neck dissection surgery in patients with head and neck cancer.

Michelle Cottrell


Professor Trevor Russell, Dr Shaun O’Leary,

Dr Annie Hill

Evaluation of a telerehabilitation model of care for the multidisciplinary management of patients with chronic musculoskeletal conditions within N/OPSC & MDS.

Khalid Jaber


Dr Shaun O’Leary,

Dr Michael MacAuliffe, Professor Michelle Sterling

Psychological, social and sensory predictors of a poor response to total knee replacement

Alan Wan


Dr Shaun O’Leary,

Professor Michael Sullivan, Professor Michelle Sterling

An investigation of Sensitivity to Movement-Evoked Pain in Whiplash Injury.


Research Projects:

Project Title




A workplace-based exercise intervention to prevent and reduce the economic and personal burden of non-specific neck pain in the office personnel


NHMRC project grant

Johnston V, Straker L, Comans T,  Sjogaard G, O’Leary S,

Melloh M.

A/Prof Venerina Johnston


Mediating the negative impact of standing for the office worker transitioning to a sit-stand workstation


UQ HABS Faculty Research Collaboration Seeding Grant


Johnston V, Gilson N, Smith M, Brown W, Vicenzino B.


A longitudinal study of risk factors for neck pain in office workers


Office Ergonomic Research Committee

Jun H, Johnston V, O’Leary S.


Is there a difference in scapular kinematics between healthy controls and people with chronic neck pain?

Physiotherapy Research Foundation seeding grant


Bet-or Y, Johnston V, O’Leary S.


Remote kinematic e-training/healthcare for patients with chronic neck pain, a randomised clinical trial

Health and Medical Research Queensland Health 2014 HMR

Treleaven J, Sarig-Bahat H.

Factors associated with laterality/ implicit motor imagery performance in chronic neck pain and whiplash


Treleaven J,

Reebeck T, Stanton T.

An investigation of the mechanical properties of the cervical arteries using ultrasound and magnetic resonance elastography

SHRS New staff Research Set-Up Fund

Thomas, L

Validation of a diagnostic support tool for the early recognition of cervical arterial dissection in patients with acute onset of neck pain or headache


Thomas L, Wong A, Holliday E, Attia J

Validity of diagnostic criteria for cervicogenic headache


Thomas L, Bolton P, Osmotherly P

Review of the 2006 APA  Guidelines for Vertebrobasilar Insufficiency

Australian Physiotherapy Association

Thomas L, Shirley D, Refshauge K, Rivett D

Identifying risk factors for poor functional recovery of the neck and shoulder after neck dissection surgery in patients with head and neck cancer

Physiotherapy Research Foundation 2015 Seeding Grant.

Gane E, O'Leary S, McPhail S, Hatton A, Panizza B.


Optimising patient selection and resource utilization for the non-surgical management of common orthopaedic conditions

RBWH Research Grant.

O’Leary, McPhail, Comans, Raymer, Khan.



Media Comment:

International Collaborators

  • Professor Gisela Sjøgaard, Institute of Sport Sciences and Clinical Biomechanics, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Southern Denmark, Odense
  • Professor Markus Melloh, Director Centre for Health Sciences, Zurich University of Applied Science
  • Professor Anneli Peolsson, Department of Medical and Health Sciences, Physiotherapy, Linköping University, Sweden
  • Dr Hilla Sarig Bahat, Department of Physiotherapy, University of Haifa
  • Dr Jinny Uthaikup, Chaing Mai University Thailand
  • Dr Ulrik Ulrik Röijezon, Department of Health Sciences Lulea University Sweden
  • Dr  Peter Michaelson, Department of Health Sciences, Lulea University Sweden
  • Dr Martin Björklund,  Umeo University,  Sweden
  • Dr Nicholas Clark, St Marys University London 
  • Assistant Professor James Elliott, Physical Therapy and Human Movement Science, Northwestern University Chicago
  • Dr Alison Rushton, University of Birmingham

National Collaborators

  • Professor Leon Straker, NHMRC Senior Research Fellow, Curtin University of Technology, Perth
  • Dr Ross Clark, University of Sunshine Coast
  • Dr Trudy Reebeck, University of Sydney
  • Dr Tasha Stanton, University of South Australia
  • Dr Sue Reid, ACU Sydney
  • Professor Julie Hides, Director Centre for Research, Mary McKillop Institute for Health Research, ACU Brisbane
  • Dr Joanne Bullock- Saxton, Research Co-ordinator Active Rehabilitation, Brisbane
  • Dr Angelo Basteris, Post doc fellow, Griffith University
  • Professor Michele Sterling, Griffitth University
  • Professor Nancy LowChoy, ACU and PCH
  • Professor Chris Levi, Hunter Medical Research Unit, John Hunter Hospital, The University of Newcastle
  • Professor John Attia, Hunter Medical Research Unit, The University of Newcastle
  • Dr Elizabeth Holliday, Hunter Medical Research Unit, The University of Newcastle
  • Professor Philip Bolton, The University of Newcastle
  • Professor Darren Rivett, The University of Newcastle
  • Dr Andrew Wong, Director of Neurology, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital

The University of Queensland

School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences Collaborators:

Inter-School/Faculty Collaborators

  • Professor Katie McMahon, Centre for Advanced Imaging
  • Gail Durbridge, Centre for Advanced Imaging
  • Professor Michael Sullivan, Director of RECOVER formerly CONROD

Contact the Neck Pain and Whiplash Research Group

P: (07) 3365 4568