A physiotherapist at the Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch hospitals has been selected to take part in a groundbreaking study exploring how philosophy can be used to unearth the causes of complex, medically unexplained symptoms.
Matthew Low, Lead Clinician Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist, is one of a 27-strong research team made up of physiotherapists, health scientists and philosophers which has been awarded a £1m grant by the Research Council of Norway.
The team’s four-year study has been inspired by people with complex medical conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, lower back pain and fibromyalgia (widespread pain and painful responses to pressure) that have medically unexplained symptoms.
It is the largest project of its kind in both healthcare and philosophy and demonstrates a groundbreaking collaboration between the sciences and humanities.
Matthew, who has worked at the Trust for 12 years, said: “Medically unexplained means that we are unable to find a common set of causes or obvious classifications for these conditions. These are widespread and some are estimated to account for between 25-50% of symptoms reported to doctors in primary care.
“Each patient presents a unique combination of symptoms and a unique expression of their condition, and this project could lead to research methods that focus more on the complexity of real-life clinical decision making rather than claiming to know the causes in a trial, giving us a more reliable outcome.”
The team is called ‘CauseHealth’ and has its first meeting in October this year to discuss the philosophical foundations of causation and the impact that it has on evidence based practice, research methodology and clinical practice.