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Dr Dorothee Debuse

Senior Lecturer

Department: Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation

Following a successful career in neuro-musculoskeletal physiotherapy (both in the NHS and in private practice) which led Dorothée to develop a particular interest in helping people with chronic pain, incl. low back pain, she started teaching part time at Northumbria University in 2002.

HLS Dorthee Debuse Staffprofile 255Following a successful career in neuro-musculoskeletal physiotherapy (both in the NHS and in private practice) which led me to develop a particular interest in helping people with chronic pain, incl. low back pain, I started teaching part time at Northumbria University in 2002. In 2004 I gave up working for the NHS to dedicate time to my PhD and, once I had finished that, to develop my other keen professional interest, hippotherapy (specialist physiotherapy which uses the movement of horses in walk to facilitate movement responses in clients with neuro-motor disorders) which I have been practising since 2009.

Since 2006 I have also been involved in the invention and development of a new exercise device designed specifically to activate key muscles responsible for the segmental spinal stability in the lumbo-pelvic area. The exercise device, one application of which is in the (pre-)rehabilitation of people with low back pain, including astronauts, has been the subject of several studies (incl. PhD and MSc) since 2009, and I have been asked to contribute to both ESA Bed-rest Workshops, designed to improve astronaut health, since 2009. As a result, staff at the ESA Crew Medical Support Office in Cologne have been very interested in the use of the device in astronaut rehabilitation, with the result that I am now PI of an ESA funded study which is just about to begin.

This is an exciting development which shows the recognition of the relevance of post-mission rehabilitation (as opposed to focus only on in-flight counter-measures), by ESA. While space bio-medicine seems exotic to some, it provides a fascinating and unique opportunity to explore deterioration in health over a very short period of time, something that takes decades on Earth; however, many of the principles are the same and can be applied equally to people's health on Earth. It gives me the opportunity to collaborate both with colleagues within Northumbria University, and experts from all over the world.

0191 215 6292


BSc (Hons), PhD, PCAP

Research Themes and Scholarly Interests

My research interests are hippotherapy, the personal experience of ill health/disability and its impact on an individual's ability to engage in rehabilitation, the use of natural/green environments to promote rehabilitation and well-being, psychosocial aspects of health, the use of exercise to promote segmental spinal stability in people with low back pain, incl. astronauts, and space biomedicine, more widely.

Much of my teaching is taken up with being the Research Lead for the pre-registration MSc Physiotherapy and MSc Occupational Therapy Programmes here at Northumbria, as well as with leading advanced clinical modules across the BSc (Hons) and MSc programmes.

Sponsors and Collaborators

Title: Effectiveness of a new approach to low back pain rehabilitation
Type: European Space Agency (ESA) - funded study
Description: Following a pre-pilot to determine the exact exercise intervention, and a pilot with symptomatic volunteers, the study will culminate in an RCT at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne to compare the effectiveness of exercise with the new device, the current approach to astronaut rehabilitation and a control condition on pain level, lumbo-pelvic muscle strength and functional ability in people with low back pain.
This is in collaboration with staff at the Crew Medical Support Office (CMSO), the German Institute for Aerospace Medicine (DLR), and Julie Hides of Australian Catholic University, Brisbane.
Date: Nov 2013 - Spring 2016
Location: UK and Germany

Title: Astronaut Rehabilitation
Type: European Space Agency (ESA) Topical Team (of experts)
Description: ESA Topical Teams are convened (usually for a period of several years) to develop ESA strategy and research in specific areas relevant to R&D and mission success. Participation is by invitation, and experts are drawn from all over Europe and beyond. I have been asked to contribute to this topical team; it will convene for the first time at the end of November 2013.
Date: 15 September 2013
Location: Europe, with international collaborators from Australia and Canada

Title: Newcastle-Brisbane-Cologne Research Consortium
Type: Research collaboration
Description: Research collaboration between myself, Dr Nick Caplan, Northumbria University,  Prof Julie Hides, Australian Catholic University, Brisbane, and Gunda Lambrecht, ESA physiotherapist at the European Astronaut Office in Cologne, to develop new approaches to physical exercise to maximise astronaut health, and to learn from research of physical (de)conditioning in micro-gravity to benefit human health on Earth.
Date: 2nd September 2011
Location: Europe

Title: Member
Type: Research collaboration
Description: UK Space Biomedicine Consortium
Date: 1st August 2011
Location: UK

Current/Recent Projects

I am currently PI of an European Space Agency-funded study into the effects of a novel exercise intervention to help people with low back pain (with a view to improving astronaut health). This project started in 2013 and is anticipated to run until 2015/16.

Key Publications

Allsop S, Reynolds C, Debuse D, Rumbold P (2014) Real Life Active Gaming Practices of 7-to-11 Year-Old Children. Games for Health Journal, accepted for publication

Debuse, Dorothée, Birch, Olivia, St Clair Gibson, Alan and Caplan, Nick (2013) Low impact weight-bearing exercise in an upright posture increases the activation of two key local muscles of the lumbo-pelvic region. Physiotherapy Theory and Practice, 29 (1). pp. 51-60. ISSN 0959-3985

Gibbon, Karl, Debuse, Dorothée and Caplan, Nick (2013) Low impact weight-bearing exercise in an upright posture achieves greater lumbopelvic stability than overground walking. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 17 (4). pp. 462-468. ISSN 1360-8592 (In Press)

Debuse, Dorothée and Brace, Hal (2011) Outcome Measures of Activity for Children With Cerebral Palsy. Pediatric Physical Therapy, 23 (3). pp. 221-231. ISSN 0898-5669

Debuse, Dorothée, Gibb, Catherine and Chandler, Colin (2009) Effects of hippotherapy on people with cerebral palsy from the users' perspective: a qualitative study. Physiotherapy Theory and Practice, 25 (3). pp. 174-192. ISSN 0959-3985

Further Information

To view my Northumbria Research link page click here


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