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MUSCULOSKELETAL REHABILITATION

Vision and mission

The research domain of musculoskeletal rehabilitation at REVAL aims to provide an innovative contribution to the evaluation and treatment of individuals with musculoskeletal conditions. On the one hand, we aim to identify, from a multidimensional perspective, mechanisms that give rise to musculoskeletal complaints and that promote suboptimal functioning (see figure). This is achieved by using reliable, valid and state-of-the-art measuring instruments. On the other hand, we focus on the development and validation of new measuring instruments to gain insight into the functioning of individuals with musculoskeletal conditions. Finally, significant efforts are devoted to developing patient-specific physiotherapy interventions, tailored to specific subgroups and to the individual’s request for help. In this way, we aim to increase physiotherapy treatment effects and to improve patient satisfaction and adherence of persons with musculoskeletal conditions, in interaction with other (medical) disciplines. 

Figure: Multidimensional management of patients with musculoskeletal conditions

  

The variety of our research projects spans the domain of fundamental (underlying mechanisms), translational, and clinically applied research (e.g., introduction of new methodologies, care pathways and new effective systems, effectiveness). Typical for our research is that the research projects, which are mainly fundamental in nature, can be applied in the clinical field, e.g., through the optimization of evaluation and treatment techniques or prevention policies. Moreover, our research projects focus on the association between biomechanical aspects (e.g., posture, movement, muscle activity) on the one hand, and psychological aspects (e.g., fear of movement) and structural properties of musculoskeletal tissues (e.g., muscle and connective tissue) on the other hand. We also have specific expertise regarding the use of technological applications for improving rehabilitation outcomes and patient adherence. To achieve our research goals, we pool expertise in rehabilitation sciences, physiotherapy and movement sciences.

Research activities 

  • Research into patterns of posture, movement and muscle activation to optimize physiotherapeutic diagnostics, prognostics and treatment strategies;
  • Research into the use of technology-supported rehabilitation, e.g., the use of robotics, sensor systems, applications for the evaluation and treatment of pain, posture and movement, tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and for the improvement of patient adherence;
  • Research into the effects of high intensity training in individuals with musculoskeletal conditions;
  • Research into the added effect of pain education and psychological characteristics on the outcome of treatment programs;
  • Research into the role of breathing and its association with biomechanical and psychological aspects in individuals with musculoskeletal conditions;
  • Research into the influence of musculoskeletal conditions in the head and neck area on tinnitus to optimize diagnostics, prognostics and treatment;
  • Research into explanatory mechanisms for the influence of musculoskeletal dysfunctions on tinnitus;
  • Research into the underlying mechanisms of pregnancy-related low back and pelvic gridle pain, specific and non-specific low back pain, to optimize diagnostics, prognostics and treatment.

Operational methods and techniques

  • Kinetics and kinematics
    • 2D and 3D movement video registration (Simi)
    • Mobile movement registration via inertial sensors (XSens)
    • Mobile 3D movement registration of the cervical spine via gyroscope and accelerometry (NeckCare)
    • Ground reaction forces via force platform (AMTI)
    • Muscle activation via electromyography (superficial and intra-abdominal) (Delsys, Noraxon)
    • Muscle strength via dynamometry (Biodex)
    • Breathing patterns via respiratory plethysmography (Inductobands)
    • Reaction speed, responsiveness (Fitlight, Smartgoals)
  • Muscle properties
    • At macroscopic level by using 2D and 3D ultrasound (Telemed, Optitrack)
  • Physiological parameters
    • Inflammatory markers and muscle enzymes via blood sample analysis
    • Cardiorespiratory fitness (Jaeger, Oxycon)
    • Capnography (Masimo)

  • Body composition by using densitometry (DEXA scan) 

  • Functioning, activities, participation, environmental factors and personal factors by using questionnaires
    • Patient-reported outcomes
    • Mobile registration of physical activity

Valorizations and provision of services

We valorize the research expertise of our cluster through RELAB, an academic innovation lab where researchers and teachers use their expertise to serve persons with physical problems and support projects from the healthcare sector and business community (https://relab.eu). Additionally, the knowledge gained from scientific research is disseminated to the clinical field via the REVAL Academy Platform for supplementary training. Several researchers of our cluster are also board members of national organizations (e.g., Belgian Back Society, Belgian Federation of Sports Physiotherapy). 

Collaborations

The research domain of musculoskeletal rehabilitation collaborates with other research domains within REVAL (muscle morphology/physiology, rehabilitation of internal disorders, neurological rehabilitation, biomechanics, health psychology). We also collaborate extensively with regional, national and international partners (healthcare institutions, companies and universities).

Within UHasselt, we collaborate with, among others, the Mobile Health Unit, the Transportation Research Unit (IMOB), the Expertise Center for Digital Media (EDM) and the Biomedical Research Institute (BIOMED). Regionally, we collaborate with Jessa Hospital (Hasselt), Hospital East Limburg (Genk), Ziekenhuis Maas en Kempen, Mariaziekenhuis Noord-Limburg, Algemeen Ziekenhuis Vesalius, Sint-Franciscusziekenhuis, PXL University of Applied Sciences and Arts, and UC Leuven-Limburg (UCLL). On a national level, we collaborate with, among others, KU Leuven (and University Hospitals Leuven), UAntwerpen (and University Hospitals Antwerp), UGent, Vrije University Brussel (VUB) and Université de Liège. Finally, international collaborations include Delft University of Technology (The Netherlands), Maastricht University (The Netherlands), Fontys University of Applied Sciences (The Netherlands), University of Groningen (The Netherlands), Fudan University (China), Teesside University (United Kingdom), Bournemouth University (United Kingdom), University of Southampton (United Kingdom), University of Nottingham (United Kingdom), University of Queensland (Australia), La Trobe University (Australia) and Universität Regensburg (Germany).

 

Principal Researchers

Prof. Dr. Timmermans Annick
Prof. Dr. Janssens Lotte
Prof. Dr. Michiels Sarah

 

Guest lecturers

Prof. dr. Corten Kristoff
Prof. dr. Smeets Kristof

 

Postdoctoral researchers

Dr. Dingenen Bart
Dr. Goossens Nina
Dr. Matheve Thomas
Dr. Verbrugghe Jonas

 

PhD researchers

Amerijckx Charlotte
Duerinckx Joris
Emmerzaal Jill
Sergooris Abner
Stevens Sjoerd