Posts By / jbranney

My enriching experience as a research assistant on a whiplash prognosis project

“My enriching experience as a research assistant on the Whiplash Prognosis Project 2017”

-Renuka Balasundaram

Department of Psychology

Bournemouth University

With my master’s dissertation due in a month’s time, I decided to take up another research assistantship, given my profound interest in research. This project which was led by supervisors Dr. Jonny Branney and Dr. Ellen Seiss was mainly aimed at conducting a literature review to gather evidence relating to the prognostic factors following acute whiplash injury in adults. After getting well acquainted with my supervisors during the first meeting, I got thoroughly briefed on the aims and objectives of the project and a detailed plan on how to go about it. During the entire course of the project, there was good communication, interaction and flexibility where I was given the autonomy and freedom to come up with innovative ideas to work around the project. With regular weekly face to face meetings and briefings on the progress of the project from my side, we successfully completed the project and tabulated necessary evidence on the research area.

The interesting aspect of the project to me was categorising the prognostic factors according to the biopsychosocial model since I got to apply the learnings of psychological principles and theories to diverse fields. This facilitated improved learning on a range of topics like role of organisational factors of physical and mental health, public health system and compensation, subjectivity of pain threshold and clinical statistics to name a few. I am glad to have been a part of this preliminary research which is ultimately aimed at filling the gap in literature concerning evidence on prognostic factors immediately following acute whiplash, and eventually developing effective interventions and treatment plans in the future.

This research project has personally given me insights into doing a thorough evaluation of evidence based on different statistical models, and also conducting independent literature review on a specific research area. I strongly feel that theoretical knowledge in research methodologies and statistics can be put into effective use only when taken part in research projects. This gives the practical experience of working alongside supervisors or a research team, meeting deadlines and promotes collaborative work in a multi-disciplinary team. Overall, my experience as a student research assistant has given me a clear vision into research in a real world and practical setting, enhanced my ability to critically evaluate and sum up evidence, improved my scientific writing skills and has ultimately driven me to pursue my future goal of becoming a PhD laureate.

ORI presentation at RCN Society of Orthopaedic and Trauma Nursing International Conference and Exhibition

RCN Society of Orthopaedic and Trauma Nursing International Conference and Exhibition, 8-9th  September 2016, Cardiff

Nice poster, but can't say the same thing for the poster board...

Nice poster, but can’t say the same thing for the poster board…

The theme for this conference was ‘Valuing the past, embracing the future‘ and it was great to be able to represent BU’s Orthopaedic Research Institute (ORI) whose work is firmly on the ’embracing the future’ side of the theme. I was there to deliver a poster presentation entitled:

A review of the literature related to the role of nutritional supplementation for an enhanced recovery pathway for hip and knee replacement’

This was produced through work with Associate Professor Tom Wainwright (Deputy Head) and Professor Rob Middleton (Head) of ORI, and Dr Simon Dyall of the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences. There was good interest in the poster from orthopaedic nurses and fellow academics, and I had a great chat about nutrition with the one medical doctor in attendance – the first time I’ve heard of an orthogeriatrician!

Headline? At present, the evidence base does not support the use of nutritional supplementation in enhanced recovery after surgery pathways for hip/knee replacement. However, that’s not to say that nutrition does not play a role. More high quality research is required particularly to explore the role of zinc, vitamin D and omega fatty acids, and possibly other nutrients that have been overlooked too. If you’d like to find out more you can get a full size version of the poster here. Any comments on this most welcome.

For those interested in orthopaedics in general, the opening presentation included learning about Norman, aged 90, who can apparently lay claim to having had the longest lasting hip replacement. He had his first replacement in 1948 and it only needed revising this year! (if I remember correctly)! Far, far longer than most hip replacements last.

Norman, 90 years young, had first hip replacement in 1948!

Norman, 90 years young, had first hip replacement in 1948!

 Other presentations included work on fracture prevention (increasingly important for our aging and increasingly frail population), developing post-graduate education in orthopaedic nursing, recognition of delirium, and the latest on the timely identification of compartment syndrome (a life-threatening complication).

Having a couple of hours to spare before returning to Bournemouth I took a look at some of the beautiful architecture in Cardiff. It had the feeling of a city that values its past:

The clock tower of Cardiff Castle

The clock tower of Cardiff Castle

but is also embracing the future…

Wales Millenium Centre

Wales Millenium Centre

Many thanks to the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences for supporting my attendance.




I was delighted to present this month at a large international conference, IFOMPT 2016, in Glasgow. The International Federation of Orthopaedic Manipulative Physical Therapists (IFOMPT) is an international body composed of many national groups specialising in post-graduate musculoskeletal physiotherapy. This is the first time the IFOMPT Conference, which is held every four years, has been hosted in the UK since 1988. This conference presented an ideal opportunity to promote the reputation of BU, the new Orthopaedic Research Institute, and AECC (where the research was undertaken).
I gave a poster presentation on work related to my PhD research into the mechanism of spinal manipulation in the treatment of neck pain. I was really pleased that there was a good bit of interest in the poster and I made useful contacts in Japan, China, USA – and Bournemouth! I was able to tempt some people I admire to my poster by posting the picture below on Twitter and sending to the Twitterati I knew were at the conference – social media works (I was not begging for attention, honest).

Come and see my poster!

Come and see my poster!

The other cool bit of technology I used for the first time at this conference was the conference app – no conference abstract booklet to have to carry around in a tacky conference bag for a couple of days.

Is a paper copy of conference proceedings now a thing of the past?

Is a paper copy of conference proceedings now a thing of the past?

The app had everything – the full itinerary, abstracts (including those of the 190 posters), and there were biographies and contact details for all the speakers and most of the delegates too. Networking can be exhausting and intimidating – this enabled me to contact people directly whom I wanted to discuss my research with and contributed to an excellent conference experience.
If you’d like to know more about the conference, or my research into the mechanism of spinal manipulation, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. (You can get a copy of my poster by clicking here).

Dr Jonny Branney
Faculty of Health and Social Sciences

There’s no ‘I’ in Team: My experience as a URA

Blog post by Pippa Empson, Undergraduate Research Assistant (Innovative Pedagogy)

Following my application and interview earlier this year I was accepted for the Undergraduate Research Assistant (URA) position on an ‘Innovative Pedagogy’ research project. Being part of the URA programme gave me an insight into the world of primary research which involved transcribing conversations from focus groups, collating data into spreadsheets and statistically analysing data using SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences), and getting the opportunity to present our findings in the Bournemouth University conference SURE (Showcasing Undergraduate Research Excellence). It was a pleasure to work alongside academic staff Dr Jacqueline Priego and Dr Jonathan Branney who welcomed me and Jade Offer, the other URA, to the team and supported me in my position.

I learnt many new skills including analysing quantitative and qualitative data which the academic staff was happy to guide me in. I was initially daunted by the work I would be expected to do and whether I would be able to fit it around my undergraduate studies as a second year adult nursing student. However as I was able to fulfill some of the URA work at home on my own computer it meant I was able to be flexible with when I worked, so I could keep my other commitments. Being a URA was a great opportunity which I would recommend it to anyone interested in research or furthering their skills, be it computer skills or communication skills.

Pippa Empson, BSc (Hons) Adult Nursing, year two

Team-work on Team-based Learning Project : My experience as a URA

Blog post by Jade Offer, Undergraduate Research Assistant (Innovative Pedagogy)

I applied to become an Undergraduate Research Assistant (URA) as I believed it would help me develop and learn new skills, and it did! As an accounting student, I enjoy working with numbers and that is why I initially applied. The field I choose was unrelated to my degree course and was something I knew little about: the teaching of pathophysiology to student nurses. Despite this I was fully immersed within the research and have really enjoyed my experience.

Fortunately enough I was chosen alongside a fellow student to work on a research project entitled: An Evaluation of Team-based Learning (TBL) in teaching Applied Pathophysiology to Student Nurses. Working with a fellow research assistant made the job even more fun, and was extremely helpful as we could talk and meet with each other to analyse the data, and to aid each other in inputting the data efficiently. We were welcomed into a team with the research leads; Dr Jonathan Branney and Dr Jacqueline Priego, both of whom provided amazing support for us both as we analysed and organised the research they had previously conducted. They both took time out of their schedules to teach us how to use the new research software we needed to use and made regular contact to assist us, which was greatly appreciated.

My involvement in the project

  • Attend regular meeting with the team to discuss next steps
  • Reading previous literature on TBL (relevant articles to our research)
  • Developing spread sheets to organise relevant exam results data
  • Using transcript software to analyse qualitative data
  • Using SPSS to carry out statistical analysis on the quantitative data collected
  • Communication Skills- Composing and delivering presentations

I also had the opportunity to be involved in SUREBU 2016, which is a showcase of research carried out by Bournemouth University students. We were both given the opportunity to present at national conferences, which we hope to attend, as it is an amazing opportunity and privilege. We have also been given the amazing opportunity to be involved in writing a professional research paper that our team hopes to get published, which is very exciting!

What I have gained

  • Presentation skills- delivering a verbal presentation of our findings and how the research was conducted
  • The importance of participant anonymity and the rules of handling important data
  • The important of research in making future changes and trialling new ideas
  • The development of a research project- from raw values to understandable statistics
  • A keen interest and knowledge of Team-based Learning
  • Knowledge in a new field which I would not have otherwise been exposed to

 I would highly recommend applying for a URA job, it has been such a beneficial experience for me; acquiring new skills, developing existing ones and meeting and working along side motivated and friendly individuals. Immerse yourself in the research job and you will find it an invaluable experience alongside your studies.

Jade Offer, BA (Hons) Accounting and Business student, year one

Researching innovative pedagogy: An Evaluation of Team-based Learning

An Evaluation of Team-based Learning – 4-5pm in PG11, Wednesday 13th of April 2016

What is Team-based Learning?

Team-based Learning (TBL) is an example of the ‘flipped classroom’ concept whereby what might be described as traditional teaching content is accessed by students outside of the classroom while activities that might be termed ‘homework’ are conducted in class. In class, students have to answer questions as individuals to test them on their learning from the set pre-reading activities (termed the individual Readiness Assurance Test), then the same questions in allocated teams (team Readiness Assurance Test). Each team has a scratch card so that students can check if their agreed answer is correct (immediate feedback). Following that, teams then work on application exercises, where they have to apply their knowledge to problem-solving real-life scenarios.

Why bother with this approach?

TBL is thought to confer some advantages over traditional teaching methods in terms of student engagement and provides immediate feedback on student performance. While it does tend to mean some extra work for lecturers in terms of preparation activities, increased job satisfaction is commonly reported, and students report enjoying learning in this way. It is believed to improve critical thinking skills and in some cases improved exam performance has been reported. Further, this collaborative learning process promotes the importance of effective team-working, a skill desired of our graduates by many employers.

Do you want to find out more?

I am delivering a session on TBL at the CELebrate Conference 2016 next week. In this session, you will be introduced to TBL and get to experience a TBL session yourself! Quantitative (using the validated TBL-SAI instrument) and qualitative (focus group discussions) results from an evaluation of the implementation of TBL into a unit on the Adult Nursing degree programme will also be presented.

What to do now?

  1. Click here to watch this video before the session (it’s less than four minutes) -it’s a snippet from my online lecture on circulatory shock. Don’t panic if you’ve little knowledge regarding human physiology, it’s only to help illustrate the TBL approach – hopefully you’ll enjoy it!
  2. Then click here to book onto the session

Best wishes

Dr Jonny Branney

Latest co-creation paper hot off the press! Study investigated the mechanism of spinal manipulation.

Does cervical lordosis change after spinal manipulation for non-specific neck pain? A prospective cohort study

C-spine QF image for Chiro and Man Therapies

The mechanism for spinal manipulation in the treatment of pain is unknown. One mechanism proposed in the literature is that neck pain might be alleviated by changing or ‘correcting’ the alignment of the cervical spine (normal is considered to be a lordosis or lordotic curve – curving in towards the body). We decided to put this idea to the test in an undergraduate student project at AECC. Mike Shilton, a third year chiropractic student at the time, measured the angle of the cervical spine on x-ray images taken of patients and healthy volunteers that I had recruited for my PhD research. In that research, briefly, patients received spinal manipulation over 4 weeks, while healthy volunteers did not. Both groups had motion x-rays taken at baseline and 4-week follow-up. By using the first static image of each motion sequence we were able to investigate whether the cervical spine alignment or lordosis changed in the patient group, and whether such changes were greater than that in the healthy group not receiving treatment.

For the statistical analysis Mike was assisted by another student, Bas Penning de Vries. After the study it was proposed to the two students, by me and Professor Alan Breen, that they have a go at writing up the study for publication, with our assistance of course. Happily, they decided to do so. It might have been at times a painful process for them (most worthwhile things seem to be!), but they persevered and now it is published in a peer-reviewed open access journal! A great achievement for them, a publication already as they begin their clinical careers.

This co-created paper was a valuable exercise for the two undergraduate students, getting to learn about the research process, statistical analysis, publication and dissemination. An obvious benefit of co-creation to academics is that the workload of a project is spread throughout a larger team, albeit the students require support -but the time invested in that support should pay off. For instance, Mike and Bas  brought a fresh perspective to the team, posing well considered questions and suggestions that could be taken on board to improve the robustness of my own work and lines of argument. And of course, we now have a publication that would have taken much longer to get to press had I not had their assistance in writing it. In other words, with co-creation, everyone stands to gain.

Dr Jonny Branney

What do we know about back pain? The Society for Back Pain Research AGM Bournemouth 2015


SBPR logo

I was delighted to attend and represent BU at The Society for Back Pain Research (SBPR) Annual General Meeting 5-6 November 2015 which was conveniently held in Bournemouth, at Anglo-European College of Chiropractic, a partner college of BU. SBPR was formed in 1971 to promote the study of all clinical and scientific aspects of spinal pain, including the neck (my area of interest), and to encourage research into its causes, treatment and prevention. There are now over 200 members of the Society, from a wide range of disciplines including all sorts of healthcare professionals and scientists. Suffice to say if there is anything about back pain this audience does not know it is probably not worth knowing! Having said that, attending this meeting reminded me just how much about back pain is still unknown…

Biological Factors in Non-Specific Back Pain

The title of this year’s meeting was ‘Biological Factors in Non-Specific Back Pain’ to place an emphasis on the ‘biological’. It has been over 25 years since the biopsychosocial model was applied to back pain but lately research has tended to be more concerned with psychosocial aspects, such as fear-avoidance behaviour or depression; research into physical findings to diagnose back pain has sadly not been very fruitful. [An important point was made by Professor Maurits van Tulder, that research has actually been largely focused on psychological factors, to the expense of social factors]. While psychosocial factors do seem to be important in influencing patients’ recovery, they don’t get us much closer to a diagnosis, to finding out what is producing and driving the patient’s pain.
However, one of the presentations at SBPR hinted at where the research focus as regards imaging (and MRI specifically) could perhaps go. One of Associate Professor Mark Hancock’s suggestions was that we need studies that focus on changes on MRI, in response to treatment (or no treatment). But how do we best measure such changes? Which treatments and for whom? Could findings on MRI in a person without back pain predict back pain in the future?

Want to know more? For a longer version of this blog, click here.

Many thanks to the Professional Practice Development community, Faculty of Health and Social Sciences, for making my attendance possible.

Dr Jonny Branney

Investigative imaging in the 21st century: the future in diagnosing spinal pain?

British Chiropractic Association Autumn Conference 2015, Bournemouth

I was delighted to have been invited to speak at the British Chiropractic Association’s Autumn Conference 2015, at the Marriot hotel, Bournemouth, perfectly situated to watch the sun glistening on the Channel. The beautiful weather was fitting for a particularly celebratory occasion with chiropractors travelling from all over the world to gather and celebrate 90 years of the BCA and 50 years of AECC. To be included as a speaker alongside some of the top researchers in the musculoskeletal field, and sharing the stage with no less than Professor Alan Breen, was slightly nerve-racking but also a very great honour.

Look Inside: MRI and quantitative fluoroscopy in the future

Photo taken by Stephen Perle DC

Photo taken by Stephen Perle DC


Alan Breen first started experimenting with what is now known as quantitative fluoroscopy (QF), taking measurements from motion x-rays, in the 1980s but it was not until the 2000s that computing power was sufficient to make this a reality. QF has since been found to be accurate and reliable in the measurement of inter-vertebral motion in both the cervical (my PhD work) and lumbar spines, and has been commercialised in the United States. It should start appearing in European hospitals within the next few years – watch this space. What will be possible with QF is a more accurate measurement of spinal stability to better inform surgical decisions and also the potential to better guide conservative treatment. The examples given from a case series during the presentation included showing that suspected lumbar instability is often not confirmed (therefore the potential to avoid unnecessary fusion surgery) and where it is present there is perhaps an increased chance of good surgical outcomes. Also, manipulation/mobilisation might be better targeted at identified segmental restrictions, and exercise therapy better directed where hypermobile or lax joint motion is present.

Alan’s part of the presentation included discussing what was possible with an open-MRI. Aside it being preferable for claustrophobic patients, the ability to image patients weight-bearing has meant the identification of disc hernia in some patients that would have been missed if imaged lying-down, therefore open-MRI is likely to play an important role in improving the diagnosis of persistent radicular pain. He also touched on diagnostic ultrasound which is showing value particularly in the diagnosis of soft-tissue injury of the extremities.

We are only at the beginning of finding out if the potential of QF (and other imaging techniques) will be fully realised, that of improved outcomes for patients with neck and back pain. Its use, like that of MRI, is likely to be restricted to those patients with particularly problematic spinal pain, but it (and open-MRI/diagnostic ultrasound) is a welcome addition to the diagnostic armamentarium of the chiropractor and other musculoskeletal professionals. And it was developed, not by a massive multinational corporation, but by a member of the BCA at AECC, a partner college of BU. Now that is worth celebrating.

Dr Jonathan (Jonny) Branney
Lecturer in Adult Nursing
Faculty of Health and Social Sciences

NB: This is a truncated version of a longer blog that can be found here

World Federation of Chiropractic Conference, Athens May 2015

From May 13-16th 2015 I had the pleasure of representing BU at the joint World Federation of Chiropractic 13th Biennial Congress/European Chiropractors’ Union Convention in Athens. This is the premiere conference within the chiropractic profession which attracts hundreds of clinicians and researchers from around the world. The Congress was entitled ‘The Alpha and Omega of Spinal Healthcare’ in deference to the historical links with the host country as Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, utilised methods of spinal manipulation.

First up in my session - cool as a cucumber...

First up in my session at Hilton Athens – cool as a cucumber (also thinking, “Maybe I’ll get to present in the big fancy hall next time…?”)

I enjoyed finding out about the latest understanding of spine biomechanics and how this might relate to the diagnosis and treatment of patients with spine conditions, as well as networking with researchers with international reputations in the musculoskeletal field. During my platform presentation I presented work on the measurement of inter-vertebral motion in the cervical spine (neck) that I did as part of my PhD last year at the Institute of Musculoskeletal Research & Clinical Implementation based at AECC, a partner college of BU. The abstract was published in the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine I will be following this up with a paper for publication in the near future. Please don’t hesistate to contact me if this is a research area that you are interested in.

Away from the conference I enjoyed seeing some of the beautiful and historic city of Athens where I enjoyed the freshest fruit and vegetables I’ve ever tasted. The top of Mount Lykavittus (Lofos Lykavittou) provided the most amazing panoramic views – and I could even see the Parthenon from my hotel balcony!

Mount Lykavittus, Athens

Mount Lykavittus, Athens

It was an interesting time, to say the least, to be in Athens. I was expecting there to be protests, particularly around the parliament building, but our visit seemed to coincide with a period of calm, certainly in the area of Athens surrounding the conference hotel. Since then there have obviously been continuing problems for the area from which arose Western culture and philosophy, and the least I can say is that I sincerely hope that things improve soon for present-day Greece.

Statue in Panatheniak stadium

Statue in Panatheniak stadium, Athens

HSC student Jonny Branney’s main PhD findings published –

HSC PhD student Jonny Branney and his first supervisor Professor Alan Breen have had a paper published in the open-access online journal Chiropractic & Manual Therapies. It is entitled, “Does inter-vertebral range of motion increase after spinal manipulation? A prospective cohort study.” This is an important question in the field of manual therapy where the mechanisms behind the clinical effects of manual treatment are often poorly understood. This PhD aimed to shed some light on the mechanism of this particular therapy commonly utilised by chiropractors, physiotherapists, osteopaths and some doctors. It is hoped that improving our understanding of the mechanism will ultimately improve the targeting of spinal manipulation to those expected to benefit from it.

Please click on the link if you’d like to read the study:

And email Jonny if you’d like to find out more!

This PhD was funded by a grant from the European Chiropractors’ Union and Jonny is also very grateful to the BU Graduate School for a PGR Development Award and a Santander Mobility Award that allowed him to present his work at international conferences. His supervision team included Professor Jenni Bolton (AECC) and Dr Sarah Hean (HSC).