Meet our international speakers

Postdoctoral Fellow, Sydney School of Public Health, University of Sydney

Mary O'Keeffe

Mary O’Keeffe is a physiotherapist and European Union Horizon 2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Global Fellow at Musculoskeletal Health Sydney, The University of Sydney. Mary’s fellowship involves two years in the University of Sydney, a three month secondment to EFIC in Brussels in Belgium, and 9 months in the University of Limerick in Ireland. Mary was awarded her PhD in 2017 in the University of Limerick. Her PhD research examined whether tailoring multidimensional rehabilitation to the individual chronic low back pain patient enhances effectiveness. Mary is very passionate about public engagement and communicating evidence-based information about low back pain through radio, newspapers and social media. Examples include All you ever need to know about back pain (RTE News Ireland), 10 myths about back pain and how to cope when it strikes, 15 things you didn’t know about back pain, How to move on from back pain, How your sleep patterns could be contributing to your back pain (Irish Independent newspaper). Mary has published 35 papers relating to low back pain and other musculoskeletal pain conditions. Mary is part of the Wiser Healthcare Collaboration to prevent overdiagnosis and overtreatment of musculoskeletal conditions and her current postdoctoral research areas are communication with consumers and examining the effect of nudging on clinical testing and treatment behaviours

Mary's lecture will be split across Friday and Saturday so please be aware of this if you are only attending for one day of the conference.

Multidimensional framework for assessing and treating persistent low back pain: assessing and identifying (Friday) & Multidimensional framework for assessing and treating persistent low back pain: application of the techniques (Saturday)

Learning outcomes include:

  • Understand the multidimensional nature of low back pain
  • Understand the importance of getting the first person story of pain
  • Identify and address modifiable barriers to recovery from low back pain
  • Understand the importance of the therapeutic alliance

Lecture aims

  • To display the multidimensional nature of pain
  • Explain the multiple factors that can be contributing to pain
  • To highlight the importance of getting the first person experience of pain
  • To display the importance of the language and words we use
  • To display the importance of tailoring our assessment and treatment approach to the needs of the individual.
Skills gained
  • A multidimensional understanding of pain
  • Get the person’s first person experience of pain
  • Identify and address psychosocial factors
  • Good communication skills
Practical skills

After this lecture, clinicians will be able to apply all of the principles discussed to help improve their assessment and treatment of low back pain. It will improve their confidence in identifying and addressing psychosocial factors.

Areas for further reading

Green, D., et al. (2018). "Clinical course and prognostic factors across different musculoskeletal pain sites: A secondary analysis of individual patient data from randomised clinical trials." European Journal of Pain.

Hartvigsen, J., et al. (2018). "What low back pain is and why we need to pay attention." The Lancet 391(10137): 2356-2367.

Foster, N. E., et al. (2018). "Prevention and treatment of low back pain: evidence, challenges, and promising

directions." The Lancet 391(10137): 2368-2383.

Buchbinder, R., et al. (2018). "Low back pain: a call for action." The Lancet 391(10137): 2384-2388.

O’Sullivan PB, Caneiro JP, O’Keeffe M, Smith A, Dankaerts W, Fersum K, O’Sullivan K. Cognitive functional therapy: an integrated behavioral approach for the targeted management of disabling low back pain. Physical therapy. 2018 Apr 16;98(5):408-23.

O'Sullivan, P., et al. (2016). "Unraveling the Complexity of Low Back Pain." J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 46(11): 932-937.

O'Keeffe M, Purtill H, Kennedy N, et al

Individualised cognitive functional therapy compared with a combined exercise and pain education class for patients with non-specific chronic low back pain: study protocol for a multicentre randomised controlled trial

BMJ Open 2015;5:e007156. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2014-007156

Synnott, A., et al. (2015). "Physiotherapists may stigmatise or feel unprepared to treat people with low back pain and psychosocial factors that influence recovery: a systematic review." Journal of Physiotherapy 61(2): 68-76.

How will this support you in becoming or continuing to be QAP?
This lecture will contribute to the upskilling of clinicians in the assessment and treatment of low back pain. This should boost their clinical performance and outcomes.


Research Assistant Professor

Antonio Stecco

Dr. Antonio Stecco is a graduate in Medicine and Surgery, and specialized in Physics Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Padua, Italy. His areas of prevalent scientific and clinical interest are anatomy of the fascia corporis via dissections and histological studies, including immunohistochemical and molecular biology; study and clinical application of hyaluronic acid; and myofascial syndrome. Following the techniques developed by his father, Luigi Stecco, PT, Dr. Stecco co-authored with his sister, Carla Stecco, MD Fascial Manipulation for Musculoskeletal Pain (Piccin, 2004). He is the author of more than twelve articles published in international journals.

Antonio is currently a Research Assistant Professor at RUSK Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine in New York City, USA.

Dr Stecco will present two lectures as part of our 2019 annual conference, including:

Physiopathology of deep fascia

By the end of this session delegates will be able to:

  • List the types of human fascia and understand the role of fascia in nociceptive pain.
  • Understand the role of deep fascia
  • Delegates will be able to differentiate nociceptive pain from inflammatory pain



How does this lecture affect your ability to become QAP?

  • Develop effective treatment for myofascial pain syndrome and musculoskeletal disorders.

Areas for further reading

  1. Stecco A, Stern R, Fantoni I, De Caro R, Stecco C. “Fascial Disorders: Implications for Treatmen”. PM R. 2015 Jun 14. pii: S1934-1482(15)00292-0.
  2. Mary K. Cowman, Tannin Schmidt, Preeti Raghavan, Antonio Stecco, Viscoelastic Properties of Hyaluronan in Physiological Conditions F1000 Research Aug 2015
  3. Stecco A, Gesi M, Stecco C, Stern R. "Fascial components of the myofascial pain syndrome” Curr Pain Headache Rep. 2013 Aug;17(8):352.

Fascial Manipulation

By the end of this session, delegates will be able to:

  • Understand your manual skills with a new innovative method
  • Evaluate the quality of the deep fascia through palpatory verification and treat appropriate the

    points (Centers of Coordination) restoring the tissue sliding.


Areas for further reading:

Branchini Mirco, Del Corso Massimiliano, Cotti Andrea, Diana Roberto, Cornale Luigi, Sudanese Alessandra; Inter and intra operator reliability of motor and palpatory evaluation in Fascial Manipulation ®; JOSPT, under revision

Simone Brandolini, Giacomo Lugaresi, Antonio Santagata, Andrea Ermolao, Marco Ermolao, Aurelie Marchand, Antonio Stecco; Sport Injury Prevention in individuals with Chronic Ankle Instability: Fascial Manipulation vs control group randomized controlled trial. J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2018 accepted

Andrew Creighton, Antonio Stecco, Amy Whitelaw, Daniel Probst, Devyani Hunt, Fascial Manipulation Method as a Treatment for Pain, Atrophy and Skin Depigmentation after Pes Anserine Bursa Corticosteroid Injection; J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2018 accepted

Harper B, Jagger K, Aron A, Steinbeck L, Stecco A. A commentary review of the cost effectiveness of manual therapies for neck and low back pain. J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2017 Jul;21(3):684-691

Busato M, Quagliati C, Magri L, Filippi A, Sanna A, Branchini M, Marchand AM, Stecco A. Fascial Manipulation Associated With Standard Care Compared to Only Standard Postsurgical Care for Total Hip Arthroplasty: A Randomized Controlled Trial. PM R. 2016 Dec;8(12):1142-1150.

Vilma Ćosić, Julie Ann Day, Pietro Iogna, Antonio Stecco, Fascial Manipulation® method applied to Pubescent Postural Hyperkyphosis: a pilot study.  J Bodyw Mov Ther. 01/2013





Meet our homegrown speakers

Deborah Falla

Deborah Falla is Chair in Rehabilitation Science and Physiotherapy at the University of Birmingham, UK and is the Director of the Centre of Precision Rehabilitation for Spinal Pain (CPR Spine). Her research focus is on optimizing the management of musculoskeletal disorders with a particular interest in spinal pain. She has published over 170 papers in international, peer-reviewed journals, more than 200 conference papers/abstracts including over 30 invited/keynote lectures and has received several recognitions and awards for her work including the German Pain Research Prize in 2014, the George J. Davies - James A. Gould Excellence in Clinical Inquiry Award in 2009 and the Delsys Prize for Electromyography Innovation in 2004. Professor Falla is an author of three books including the latest published in 2018 entitled “Management of neck pain disorders: a research informed approach” (Elsevier). Professor Falla acts as an Associate Editor for Musculoskeletal Science & Practice, the Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology and Transactions on Neural Systems & Rehabilitation Engineering. Since 2016, she is President of the International Society of Electrophysiology and Kinesiology (ISEK).

Deborah last spoke at our 2015 Physio First conference with a highly regarded lecture on Reogranised sensorimotor control in neck pain and the benefits of training. We are delighted that she will be returning in 2019.

Deborah will be speaking on:

New insights into spinal muscle control in people with spinal pain revealed with high-density surface electromyography

Lecture aims

  • To appreciate the advantage of high-density surface electromyography  (EMG) investigations over classic EMG approaches
  • To appreciate the normal variability and non-uniformity of spinal muscle activity and how this is modified in people with spinal pain
  • To consider novel exercise approaches for people with back and neck pain based on the possibilities offered by high-density surface EMG

Lecture aims

To present an overview of studies utilising high-density EMG to investigate the normal control of spinal muscles and how neuromuscular control is modified in the presence of back and neck pain.

Skills gained

Participants will learn new evidence of neuromuscular adaptions in people with low back pain and neck pain and how these findings have translated into novel exercises for people with spinal pain.

Areas for further reading

  • Falla D, Hodges PW.
  • Individualized Exercise Interventions for Spinal Pain. Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2017 Apr;45(2):105-115
  • Falla D, Cescon C, Lindstroem R, Barbero M.
  • Muscle Pain Induces a Shift of the Spatial Distribution of Upper Trapezius Muscle Activity During a Repetitive Task: A Mechanism for Perpetuation of Pain With Repetitive Activity? Clin J Pain. 2017 Nov;33(11):1006-1013.
  • Falla D, Gizzi L, Tschapek M, Erlenwein J, Petzke F.
  • Reduced task-induced variations in the distribution of activity across back muscle regions in individuals with low back pain. Pain. 2014 May;155(5):944-53
How does this lecture support your journey towards being, or continuing to be, a Quality Assured Practitioner?
This lecture will consider the relevant clinical assessment findings and exercise responses which could be evaluated clinically.


Joanne Elphinston

Joanne Elphinston is a performance consultant, clinician and founder JEMS®, an internationally taught, integrated movement-based system developed to support practitioners working in diverse rehabilitation, performance and health contexts.

As a private practitioner, Joanne’s  interests lie in complex and chronic presentations, and as a performance consultant, Joanne supports professional dancers, athletes and musicians to achieve increased physical freedom and technical expression. Joanne has worked extensively with a wide range of national and international sports and performing arts organisations, including the British Olympic Association, the Football Association (FA), the National Dance Company of Wales, and BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

The second edition of Joanne’s “Stability, Sport and Performance Movement” was released in 2013. Her forthcoming book, The Power and the Grace, is scheduled for release in 2019.

Joanne will be speaking on:

The Future In Your Hands: Clinical Reasoning, Common Sense and Confidence

Learning outcomes:

By the end of this session delegates will be able to:

 ·     Embrace the breadth of what “hands-on” might represent in a clinical setting.

  • Consider the what, why and when of mobilisation through clinical examples.
  • Appreciate the need for both critical evaluation and broader consideration when considering the evidence base.
  • Accept the challenge to individualise clinical decision making in the treatment room with confidence.

Lecture aims:

This lecture proposes that by drawing the base metal of our treatments from the catalogue of available evidence, forging it in clinical reasoning, and above all, tempering it in humanity, practitioners can meet the individual and unique needs of each patient with respect and skill.


Associate Professor - Department of Allied Health Sciences

Mick Thacker

Mick Qualified as a physiotherapist from West Middlesex University Hospital School of physiotherapy and worked as a specialist musculoskeletal physiotherapist at several London teaching hospitals. He undertook and passed with distinction advanced training in manual therapy before completing a Master’s degree at University College London (with distinction). Mick completed his PhD at King’s under the supervision of Profs Pat Wall and Steve McMahon, his thesis focused on neuro-immune interactions and pain; more specifically the role of the chemokine CCL2 as a key mediator of neuropathic pain. He held lecturing posts at Brunel University and St Georges Medical School before moving to King’s where Mick rewrote and led the award winning MSc Pain; Science and Society programme. He is currently Associate Professor and Professional Lead for Physiotherapy at London South Bank University. He is involved with inter-professional learning initiatives for pain both at the university and in the wider academic arena, he was invited to join curriculum development team of the International Association for the Study of Pain. Mick received a fellowship of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy in November 2011, for his outstanding contribution to the understanding and education of pain science within the profession and promotion of his profession within the wider scientific community.

Mick will be speaking on:

Predictive Processing - treating the whole person with pain

Learning outcomes include:

  • Understand the core tenets of Predictive Processing
  • Understand the modern concepts of pain
  • Understand the dynamic interactions between the person and their environment
  • Better reason how to manage individuals with pain
  • No longer see people as brains


Who should attend this lecture?

Both physiotherapists and non-physiotherapists managing pain

Aims of this lecture are to facilitate a better understanding of the person in pain

Delegates will gain advanced clinical reasoning skills and with daily practice practical application

Areas for further reading

  • Clark A. (2015) Surfing Uncertainty. Oxford University Press
  • Seth A. see Ted Talk
  • Thacker M.A. (2015) Louis Gifford Revolutionary: The Mature Organism Model; an Embodied
  • In Touch August 152: 4-9. Cognitive Perspective of Pain.


Associate Professor at University of Nottingham

Roger Kerry

Roger Kerry is Associate Professor in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at the University of Nottingham, UK.  He is a Chartered Physiotherapist, and an honorary Fellow of the UK’s Musculoskeletal Association of Chartered Physiotherapists.  His main clinical research interests have been in adverse events and physiotherapy interventions of the head and neck, particularly on the causal nature of the interventions. Roger is a member of several international working groups related to best practice for the management of head and neck pain. Roger is also undertaking research activity in the Philosophy of Science, investigating the nature of causation in evidence-based healthcare, and this was the focus of his PhD. He is well- published in these areas and has been an invited speaker at numerous international conferences. Roger has won several teaching awards, including two prestigious Lord Dearing Awards for Teaching & Learning following his work on the use of social media in education.

Roger's lecture is titled,

Hands On, Hands Off: Is that even a thing?

By the end of this session delegates will be able to:

  • Understand a broader dialogue about evidence-based physiotherapy practice in relation to clinical decision-making
  • Evaluate their own clinical reasoning within a multi-dimensional evidence-based framework
  • Appreciate the strengths and limitations of a range of evidence sources

This lecture aims to provide a critical analysis of the “hand on, hands off” debate, which making sense of the best of the evidence which should be used to inform clinical decision-making.

Skills gained

  • Critical evaluation of their own practice, and the complex and multi-sourced evidence-base.
  • Better informed clinical decision making for people with musculo-skeletal dysfunction.
Practical application
Ability to better apply evidence-informed reasoning to their own clinical practice
Further learning/reading

Jones M, Rivett D. 2019 Clinical Reasoning in Musculoskeletal Practice, 2nd Edition, Elsevier Hardcover ISBN: 9780702059766

How does this lecture support your journey towards being, or continuing to be, a Quality Assured Practitioner?

Enhanced critical evaluation of evidence and clinical decision making will optimise patient outcomes.



Tim Watson

Tim trained as a physiotherapist in London, UK, qualifying in 1979. After spending some years in the National Health Service (mainly musculoskeletal orthopaedics and rheumatology), and with various sports clubs and National Teams, he took up a lecturing role at West Middlesex Hospital, then Brunel University and now at the University of Hertfordshire. He undertook a degree in Biomedical Sciences followed by a PhD from the Biomedical Engineering Department at the University of Surrey in 1994. His PhD thesis was ‘The Bioelectric Correlates of Musculoskeletal Injury and Repair’.

He researches in several fields associated primarily with electrotherapy and tissue repair and is currently Professor of Physiotherapy, School of Health & Emergency Professions at the University of Hertfordshire. He has published many papers, is editor of a core text on electrotherapy and has contributed several chapters to other edited texts. He is a reviewer for more than 25 journals and grant authorities and has presented more than 850 professional lectures, short courses and conference papers.

Tim's lecture is titled:

Should Electrophysical Modalities continue to be used in modern physiotherapy practice? An Evidence Based Consideration

Learning outcomes include:

  • Identify the relationship between pure and applied research
  • Consider Electrophysical Modalities as a component of integrated therapy practice
  • Employ existing and new evidence into a clinical decision making framework

Lecture aims

The session aims to consider both the available evidence for the use of Electrophysical Agents (EPA’s) as an integral part of physiotherapy treatment packages, how this integration might be best achieved and argues that the identification of EPA’s as a ‘passive’ intervention does not necessarily reflect the evidence supporting their use in modern therapy practice.

This session should be attended by any physiotherapists who employ or is conserving the use of electrophysical modalities into their practice


Director of Practice & Development at the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy

Natalie Beswetherick

Natalie Beswetherick OBE MCSP MBA FCSP is Director of Practice and Development at the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP), a post held since 2010. Her directorate provides expert advice and services to members and external stakeholders covering the breadth of practice of the profession including research, education and clinical practice. Her areas of current interest, that are unrelated, are the development of future leaders in the profession, and how the profession can learn from litigation claims to reduce risk of future claims. Prior to this, she worked in the National Health Service (NHS) as a Senior Manager at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust for Trauma and Orthopaedic, Physiotherapy and Orthotic Services.


Together with Pam Simpson and Greg Swarbrick, Natalie will contribute to is quality a choice?

Learning outcomes for this session include:

  • The CSP recommendations about the collecting of data by physiotherapists and in particular patient outcomes which informs value based commissioning across all areas of healthcare
  • Bupa's approach to the purchasing of MSK treatment, their journey so far and their thoughts for the future
  • How Physio First QAP and QAC schemes fit into this overall quality agenda

Head of patient outcomes at Bupa

Greg Swarbrick

Greg Swarbrick leads the development and use of quality data across Bupa UK’s various provider and insurance businesses.

This covers a broad range – current work includes developing a quality framework for musculoskeletal conditions in all care settings, defining how Bupa Insurance should work with PHIN’s inpatient and day surgery outcomes dataset, collecting quality of life and experience feedback from patients with dementia, and using a range of outcome measures to profile quality and effectiveness across Bupa’s UK dental clinics. His work increasingly incorporates clinician based outcomes to better evidence quality, effectiveness and appropriateness. Greg started in healthcare in 2009 working at Dr Foster Intelligence to extract insights from NHS hospital data to advise on commercial and quality opportunities, as well as delivering a project to understand the career paths of top leaders in the NHS and what values and experiences helped them reach these roles.

Before that, he studied Classics with Ancient History at university and then managed relationships and led co-operation activities for British Airways with 10 of its partner airlines.

Together with Pam Simpson and Natalie Beswetherick, Greg will contribute to is quality a choice?

Learning outcomes for this session include:

  • The CSP recommendations about the collecting of data by physiotherapists and in particular patient outcomes which informs value based commissioning across all areas of healthcare
  • Bupa's approach to the purchasing of MSK treatment, their journey so far and their thoughts for the future
  • How Physio First QAP and QAC schemes fit into this overall quality agenda

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