Dr Nicola R Heneghan PhD, MSc, PG Cert HEd, Grad Dip Phys

Dr Nicola R Heneghan

School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences
Physiotherapy Lecturer/Researcher, MSc Advanced Manipulative Physiotherapy Programme Lead
Professional Lead Certificate in Independent Prescribing
Education Lead CPR Spine, Patient and Public Involvement Lead CPR Spine

Contact details

School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Dr Nicola Heneghan is an expert in research in rehabilitation science and postgraduate musculoskeletal/manipulative physiotherapy. Her research primarily focused to spinal pain and dysfunction utilises innovative approaches to evaluate spinal mobility. Her research interests also include optimising the management of musculoskeletal conditions with a particular interest in neck pain, low back pain and whiplash.


  • Doctor of Philosophy
  • Membership by examination of the Musculoskeletal Association of Chartered Physiotherapists
  • MSc Neuromusculoskeletal Physiotherapy
  • Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education
  • Graduate Diploma Physiotherapy
  • Registrant with the Health and Care Professions Council


Nicola has worked within education since 2000 with a focus to research and teaching in the specialist area of musculoskeletal rehabilitation / manipulative physiotherapy / sports medicine. Nicola's involvement in teaching, learning and supervision encompasses the subject areas of musculoskeletal physiotherapy, manipulative therapy, sports medicine, evidence based practice, clinical reasoning, and research methods. Her involvement is focused to the postgraduate programmes, particularly teaching and supervision on the MSc Advanced Manipulative Physiotherapy, MSc Exercise and Sports Medicine (Football) and supervising MSc, MRes and PhD students.

Nicola is the Chair of the Musculoskeletal Association of Chartered Physiotherapists (MACP), MO of IFOMPT and Hub Lead for the Council for Allied Health Professions Research (CAHPR) West Midlands Branch.  

Accredited organisation for Physiotherapy



  • Advanced Integrated Physiotherapy Practice module (BSc)
  • Advanced Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy 2; upper quadrant (Module Lead)
  • Advanced Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy 1: lower quadrant module (MSc)
  • Continuing Professional Development and Mentored Practice module (MSc) (examination)
  • Musculoskeletal Practice module (MSc)
  • Neuromuscular Adaptation to Training module (MSc)
  • Prescribing: Scientific Principles and Practice
  • Prescribing: Safe and Effective Practice
  • Research in Practice module (BSc)
  • Research Methods in Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences module (MSc)
  • Sports Medicine (Football) 1 module (MSc)
  • Sports Medicine (Football) 2 module (MSc)
  • Thinking and Doing (MBChB)
  • MSc Dissertation module – supervising 11 students in 2017/18 academic year

Postgraduate supervision

Nicola is interested in supervising doctoral research students in the following areas:

Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation Sciences, particularly precision rehabilitation in the areas of spinal pain, musculoskeletal pain following trauma, sports medicine.

If you are interested in studying any of these subject areas please contact Nicola on the contact details above, or for any general doctoral research enquiries, please email: dr@contacts.bham.ac.uk or call +44 (0)121 414 5005.

For a full list of available Doctoral Research opportunities, please visit our Doctoral Research programme listings.   

Current PhD supervisions include:

  • Precision rehabilitation for spinal pain
  • Precision rehabilitation following trauma
  • Clinical reasoning in musculoskeletal physiotherapy
  • Trunk laterality recognition tasks and motor imagery
  • Precision management low back pain in elite gymnasts
  • Investigation of the neurophysiological effects of physiotherapy treatment interventions in the cervical spine - measurement of key outcome measures


Human Movement and Rehabilitation

Research Activity

Nicola works as part of a team of researchers focused to personalised rehabilitation for patients presenting with musculoskeletal pain of spinal and traumatic origin. As well as leading and supporting spinal and trauma research, she is the Public and Patient Involvement (PPI) Lead within the Centre of Precision Rehabilitation for Spinal Pain. Having many years of experience of working with patient groups, she coordinates PPI for all funded projects within CPR Spine; chairing meetings and provision of training for termly CPR Spine PPI Group Meetings. As part of this role we have set up a dedicated database of individuals with spinal complaints (CPR Spine Register) to support projects within the centre.

Research programme overview:

It is widely acknowledged that assessment and management of musculoskeletal and spinal pain disorders is an international challenge and comes at great patient and societal cost, particularly as many problems become long term chronic conditions. We are developing and validating new assessment protocols which offer new opportunities to objectively characterise the presentation of patients presenting with musculoskeletal pain of spinal and traumatic origin. As a result, this enables appropriate identification of patient-specific safe targeted interventions. Effective targeted rehabilitation can enable improved effectiveness (clinical and cost) as it identifies which patients to target with specific rehabilitation approaches, and therefore enables more effective use of rehabilitation resources. The process of developing effective targeted rehabilitation is lengthy and requires several stages to ensure rigour and applicability to practice. 

Nicola’s current role is as

1] PI for projects focused thoracic spine pain and rehabilitation

2] Co-I for projects focused to spinal surgery for low back problems

3] Co-I for projects focused to acute low back pain and musculoskeletal polytrauma.

4] Co-I for projects focused to neuroplasticity in musculoskeletal rehabilitation

  1. 1.       PI for projects focused to the thoracic spine

The development novel measurement approaches to evaluate thoracic spine mobility has enabled us to investigate dysfunction in this relatively under research spinal region. Reviews and observational studies completed or in progress in populations include but are not limited to COPD, whiplash associated disorders, sedentary and active populations (elite athletes, sedentary and older adults). Understanding the scope and nature of thoracic dysfunction and current management approaches will inform future research investigating interventions (1 book contribution, 3 papers published, 2 under review, 2 under preparation). Further research (survey, Delphi) with international collaborators from University of Nevada, Las Vegas and University of Newcastle, Australia is underway to investigate current international practice and inform the development of clinical guidelines in the management of the thoracic spine.     

  1. 2.       Co-I for projects focused to spinal surgery for low back problems

Physiotherapy rehabilitation post lumbar discectomy (Co-I)

Phase III trial funding application for evaluation of stepped care intervention is under preparation targeting ARUK / NIHR EME. Collaboration with MDS, Oxford Surgical Trials Unit, Manchester Metropolitan University, and 7 clinical sites. Based on an established programme of research: survey of current UK practice, systematic review evaluating effectiveness of interventions, development of leaflet intervention, pilot and feasibility trial, development of physiotherapy intervention, analysis of intervention (all published); and systematic reviews of natural course of symptoms and prognostic factors, qualitative analysis of patients’ experiences (papers under preparation) and an evaluation of the lived experience of patients undergoing this type of surgery through further qualitative research projects.

Physiotherapy stratified rehabilitation post lumbar spinal fusion (Co-I)

Prospective cohort observation study evaluating prognostic factors indicative of poor clinical outcome using the British Spine Registry and equivalent databases in collaborating countries (Netherlands and Switzerland) commenced January 2017 with internal UoB pump priming. Results will inform stratified care physiotherapy intervention. Based on established programme of research,   surveys of current national surgeon and physiotherapy practice, systematic review evaluating effectiveness of interventions are complete (all published) and we are currently conducting an evaluation of the lived experience of patients undergoing this type of surgery following successful funding bid in 2016.


Spine research in collaboration with the English Institute of Sport (Co-I)

Collaborative research contract in place with English Institute of Sport for spine research group. To date 7 funded MSc students with projects focused on research priorities within gymnastics, rowing swimming, Paralympic sport and boxing (2 publications, 2 under review, 2 under preparation, 1 PhD student).

  1. 3.       Projects focused to acute low back pain and musculoskeletal polytrauma (collaborator)

Trauma National Institute for Health Research Surgical Reconstruction and Microbiology Research Centre (NIHR SRMRC; Trauma Centre) (Start: 01/08/2016; Duration: 36 months; Source: NIHR; Amount: £200,000 funded)

To apply state-of-the-art methodologies and statistical approaches to better understand acute post-traumatic pain and prognosis in relation to the development of ongoing pain and disability (Co-I). Moreover, to utilise this knowledge to develop and evaluate the feasibility of incorporating timely interventions for concomitant physical functioning and psychological health to prevent and/or reverse processes that mediate the transition from acute to chronic pain.

  1. 4.       Neuroplasticity in musculoskeletal rehabilitation (international collaboration)(Co-I)

A series of international collaborative research projects focused to understanding neuroplasticity in musculoskeletal rehabilitation and drawing on expertise cross discipline in neurological and musculoskeletal physiotherapy.  (4 publications) 

Other activities

  • International Advisory Board for Musculoskeletal Science and Practice Journal [2017-date]
  • Chair, Musculoskeletal Association of Chartered Physiotherapists, UK member organisation for International Federation of Orthopaedic Manipulative Physical Therapists [2016-date]
  • MACP MO Representative, International Federation of Orthopaedic Manipulative Therapists [2016-date]
  • Council for Allied Health Professions in Research West Midlands Hub Lead [2015-date]
  • NIHR mentorship of interns on the Clinical Academic Training scheme [2015-date]
  • Education Lead Musculoskeletal Association of Chartered Physiotherapists [2012-2016]
  • Reviewer of articles submitted for publication to: Manual Therapy, Gait and Posture, Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, Patient Education and Counselling, Physical Therapy in Sport, Journal of Biomechanics, Physiotherapy, International Journal of COPD 
  • Reviewer of research proposals submitted to the Musculoskeletal Association of Chartered Physiotherapists, NIHR HTA and RfPB programmes 
  • Reviewer of papers submitted for presentation at World Confederation of Physical Therapy and International Federation of Orthopaedic and Manipulative Physical Therapists conferences
  • Scientific Committee IFOMPT2016 and Trial Steering Group membership 


ResearchGate: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Nicola_Heneghan

Google Scholar: https://scholar.google.co.uk/citations?user=EEfEzQgAAAAJ&hl=en

Bibliometric data

  • 39 original peer reviewed international research publications (29 since 2014, including 13 as senior/ corresponding author and 10 under review) in journals including PlosOne, BMJ Open, Musculoskeletal Science and Practice (excludes published abstracts, professional papers)
  • H-index 12: Google Scholar (18/11/17), Scopus (18/11/17)
  • >50 research focused conference oral / poster presentations. Numerous other teaching presentations at national / international conferences.


  1. Heneghan N, Smith R, Falla D, Rushton A. Thoracic dysfunction in whiplash associated disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis. PlosOne
  2. Singh G, Newton C, O'Sullivan K, Soundy A, Heneghan NR. Exploring The Lived Experience And Chronic Low Back Pain Beliefs Of White British And English Speaking Punjabi People. BMJ Open
  3. Rushton A, Staal B, Verra M, Emms, A, Reddington M Soundy A, Cole A, Willems P, Bennker LM, Masson, Heneghan NR The patient journey following lumbar spinal fusion surgery [LSFS]: protocol for a multicentre qualitative analysis of the patient rehabilitation experience [FuJourn]. BMJ Open
  4. 4.       Storberget M, Grodahl LH, Snodgrass S, van Vliet P, Heneghan NR. (2017) Verbal augmented feedback in the rehabilitation of lower extremity musculoskeletal dysfunction: a systematic review. BMJ Open-SEM. 3:e000256. doi: 10.1136/bmjsem-2017-000256
  5. Bucke J, Spencer S, Fawcett L, Sonvico L, Rushton A, Heneghan NR (2017) Validity of the digital inclinometer and iPhone when measuring thoracic rotation. Journal of Athletic Training. doi: 10.4085/1062-6050-52.6.05. JIF 1.42
  6. Rushton A, Heneghan NR, Heap A, White L, Calvert M, Goodwin P. (2017) Patient and physiotherapist perceptions of rehabilitation following primary lumbar discectomy: a qualitative focus group study embedded within an external pilot and feasibility trial. BMJ Open. 7(4):e015878. doi:10.1136/ bmjopen-2017-015878 JIF 2.271


  1. Kosteli MC,  Heneghan N, Roskell C ,Williams SE,  Adab P, Dickens A, Enocson A, Fitzmaurice,  D, Jolly K, Jordan R, Greenfield S, Cumming J (2016) Barriers and enablers of physical activity engagement for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in primary care. Int Journal of COPD. 2: 1019-1031 10.2147/COPD.S119806. JIF 3.14
  2. Miller C, Peek AL, Power D, Heneghan NR (2016) Psychological consequences of  Traumatic Upper Limb Peripheral Nerve Injury: a systematic review. Journal of Hand Therapy 22(1)-35-45. DOI.org/10.1177/1758998316679387
  3. Rushton A, Heneghan N, Heijmans M W, Staal, JB, Goodwin P. (2016) Natural course of pain and disability following primary lumbar discectomy: protocol for a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ Open. 6, 2, e010571 DOI:10.1136/bmjopen-2015-010571 JIF 2.271
  4. Rushton A, Heneghan N, Calvert M, White L, Heap A, Goodwin P (2016). Physiotherapy Post Lumbar Discectomy: Prospective Feasibility and Pilot Randomised Controlled Trial. PlosOne doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0142013. JIF 3.534. (REF20201) 
  5. Rushton A, Calcutt A, Heneghan NR, Heap A, White L, Calvert M, Goodwin P (2016) Descriptive analysis of a 1:1 physiotherapy outpatient intervention post primary lumbar discectomy: one arm of a small scale parallel RCT across two UK sites. BMJ Open 6:e009409 DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2015-009409 JIF 2.271
  6. Heneghan NR, Smith R, Rushton A (2016) Thoracic dysfunction in whiplash-associated disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis protocol. Systematic Reviews. 5:26. DOI: 10.1186/s13643-016-0201-0
  7. Heneghan NR, Rushton A (2016) Understanding why the thoracic region is the 'Cinderella' region of the spine. Manual Therapy. 21:274-276. DOI: 10.1016/j.math.2015.06.010  JIF 1.71
  8. Koenders N, Rushton A, Heneghan N, Verra ML, Willems P, Hoogeboom T, Staal JB (2016) Pain and disability following first time lumbar fusion surgery for degenerative disorders: a systematic review protocol. Systematic Reviews 5:72 DOI: 10.1186/s13643-016-0252-2
  9. Jensen Grødahl L, Fawcett L, Nazareth M, Smith R, Spencer S, Heneghan N, Rushton A (2016) Diagnostic utility of patient history and physical examination data to detect spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis in athletes with low back pain: a systematic review. Manual Therapy 24: 7-17 DOI: 10.1016/j.math.2016.03.011 JIF 1.71
  10. Tyros I, Soundy AA, Heneghan NR (2016) Vibration sensibility of the median nerve in a population with chronic whiplash associated disorder: Intra- and inter-rater reliability study. Manual Therapy 25:81-6.  DOI: 10.1016/j.math.2016.06.006 JIF 1.71
  11. Jolly K, Majothi S, Sitch AJ, Heneghan NR, Riley RD, Moore DJ, Bates EJ, Turner AM, Bayliss SE, Price MJ, Singh SJ, Adab P, Fitzmaurice DA, Jordan R (2016) Self-management of healthcare behaviours for COPD: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Int Journal of COPD 11:305–326. DOI: 10.2147/COPD.S90812 JIF 3.14


  1. Jordan R, Majothi S, Heneghan NR, Blissett DB, Riley RD, Sitch AJ et al. (2015) Supported self-management for patients with moderate to severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): an evidence synthesis and economic analysis. Health Technology Assessment. 19(36). Available from: 10.3310/hta19360. DOI: 10.3310/hta19360
  2. Peek A, Miller, C, Heneghan NR (2015) Thoracic manual therapy in the management of non-specific shoulder pain: A systematic review.  Journal of Manual & Manipulative Therapy. 23 (4):176-187. DOI: 10.1179/2042618615Y.0000000003
  3. Heneghan NR, Adab P, Jackman S, Balanos GM (2015) Musculoskeletal dysfunction in COPD an observational study. Int J Ther Rehabil. 22(3): 119–28. DOI: 10.12968/ijtr.2015.22.3.119 JIF 1.91
  4. Rushton A, Heneghan N, Heap A, White L, Calvert M, Goodwin P (2015) Physiotherapy rehabilitation post first lumbar discectomy: phase II pilot and feasibility trial. PlosOne 10(11), e0142013 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0142013 JIF 3.23
  5. Rushton A, White L, Heap A, Heneghan N (2015) Survey of current surgeon practice for patients undergoing lumbar spinal fusion in the UK. World Journal of Orthopaedics. 6(6):483-90. DOI:10.5312/wjo.v6.i6.483
  6. Majothi S, Jolly K, Heneghan NR, Price M, Riley R, Turner A, Bayliss S, Moore D, Singh S, Adab P, Fitzmaurice D, Jordan R (2015) Supported self-management for patients with COPD who have recently been discharged from hospital: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Int Journal of COPD. 10: 857-63. DOI: 10.2147/COPD.S74162 JIF 2.67
  7. Franklin S, Grey M, Heneghan NR, Bowen L, Li F-X (2015) Barefoot vs Common Footwear: A systematic review of the kinematic, kinetic and muscle activity differences during walking. Gait & Posture. 42 (3): 230-239. DOI: 10.1016/j.gaitpost.2015.05.019 JIF 2.75.
  8. Scholefield S, Cooke C, van Vliet P, Heneghan NR (2015) The effectiveness of mental imagery for improving strength in an asymptomatic population – a systematic review. Physical Therapy Reviews. 20(2)86-97. DOI: 10.1179/1743288X15Y.0000000013


  1. Snodgrass SJ, Heneghan NR, Tsao H, Stanwell P, Rivett DA, van Vliet P (2014) Recognising neuroplasticity in musculoskeletal rehabilitation: a basis for greater collaboration between musculoskeletal and neurological physiotherapists. Manual Therapy. 19(6):614-7. DOI: 10.1016/j.math.2014.01.006 JIF 1.71.
  2. Jordan R, Majothi S, Heneghan NR, Riley R, Stitch A, Price M, Bates E, Turner A, Bayliss S, Moore D, Singh S, Adab P, Fitzmaurice D, Jolly K (2014) Does self-management support increase the risk of mortality amongst patients with COPD? A systematic review of the evidence. European Respiratory Journal.  44 no. Suppl 58 P4737
  3. Rushton A, Wright C, Kontakiotis N, Mystrakis A, Frydas D, Heneghan NR (2014) Discriminative validity of sensory evaluation in a whiplash-associated disorder II population. Int J Ther Rehabil. 21 (10): 460-7. DOI: 10.12968/ijtr.2014.21.10.460
  4. Rushton A, Heneghan N, Heap A, White L, Hamid N, Eveleigh G, Wright C (2014) Survey of current physiotherapy practice for patients undergoing lumbar spinal fusion in the UK. Spine 39(23):E1380-7 DOI: 10.1097/BRS.0000000000000573 JIF 2.30


  1. Sturmberg C, Marquez J, Heneghan N, Snodgrass S, van Vliet P. (2013) Attentional focus of feedback and instructions in the treatment of musculoskeletal dysfunction: A systematic review. Manual Therapy. 18 (6): 458-467. DOI: 10.1016/j.math.2013.07.002 JIF 1.71  
  2. Rushton A, Eveleigh G, Petherick EJ, Heneghan NR, Bennett R, James G, Wright C (2012) Physiotherapy rehabilitation following lumbar spinal fusion: a systematic review and meta-analysis of Randomised Controlled Trials, BMJ Open. 24;2(4) DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2012-000829 JIF 2.27
  3. Heneghan NR, Balanos GM, Adab P, Jordan RE (2012). Manual therapy for chronic obstructive airways disease: A systematic review of current evidence. Manual Therapy. 17(6):507-18. DOI:10.1016/j.math.2012.05.004 JIF 1.71 Citations 21
  4. Kilby J, Heneghan NR, Maybury M. (2012) Manual palpation of lumbo-pelvic landmarks; a validity study. Manual Therapy. 17(3):259-62. DOI:10.1016/j.math.2011.08.008 JIF 1.71.
  5. Stamos I, Heneghan NR, McCarthy C (2012) Inter-examiner reliability of active Combined Movements Assessment of Subjects with a History of Mechanical Neck Problems. Manual Therapy 17(5):438-44. DOI: 10.1016/j.math.2012.04.009 JIF 1.71 Citations 2
  6. Rushton A, Wright C, Heneghan NR, Eveleigh G, Calvert M, Freemantle N (2011) Physiotherapy rehabilitation for Whiplash Associated Disorder II: a systematic review and meta-analysis of Randomised Controlled Trials. BMJ Open. 14; 1(2):e000265. DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2011-000265 JIF 2.27
  7. Heneghan NR, Balanos GM. (2010) Soft tissue artefact in the thoracic spine during axial rotation and arm elevation using ultrasound imaging: a descriptive study.  Manual Therapy 15(6):599-602. DOI: 10.1016/j.math.2010.05.004 JIF 1.71
  8. Heneghan NR, Hall A, Hollands M, Balanos GM (2009) Stability and intra-tester reliability of an in vivo measurement of thoracic axial rotation using an innovative methodology. Manual Therapy 14(4):452-455. DOI: 10.1016/j.math.2008.10.004 JIF 1.71
  9. van Vliet PM, Heneghan NR (2006) Motor control and the management of musculoskeletal dysfunction. Manual Therapy. 11(3): 208-213. DOI: 10.1016/j.math.2006.03.009 JIF 1.71.
  10. Heneghan NR (2005) The influence of gender on skeletal muscle endurance capacity. Physical Therapy Reviews. 10(3): 171-178.  DOI: 10.1179/108331905X68529 Citations 2