Per Kjaer’s research has focused on neck and low back pain with particular emphasis on spinal pain epidemiology and neck pain characteristics, imaging findings (including Modic changes) drawing on his expertise in MRI, the use of database registries, wireless motion sensor systems, and the conduct of clinical trials. In the search for biological causes and risk factors of low back pain, Per Kjaer has established, led and managed the longitudinal cohort study called `Backs on Funen´ since 2000 with regular time-series re-measurement. The reporting of the results from this project is progressing and has included two PhD projects on MRI findings, another on genetic risk factors for early degeneration, and another on the course of low back pain in adults.
For more than 10 years, Per Kjaer has prioritised leading and/or participating in the challenging task of creating several clinical guidelines for the profession’s clinical community, for which he has received both acknowledgement and awards. Although these very time-consuming tasks have reduced the time he has had to work on other academic publications, they have ensured his familiarity with the literature associated with back and neck pain and established Per Kjaer’s profile as someone who can help link research outcomes with clinical practice. He has prioritised these translational activities because without bridge-building between the scientific and clinical communities, the potential for evidence-based care would not be realised.
Per Kjaer’s dedication to a multidisciplinary approach to research and teaching is evidenced by his request to locate his previous position as Associate Professor in the Research Unit for Clinical Biomechanics, Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Southern Denmark to deliberately nurture research interests and debates across the physiotherapy and chiropractic disciplines. This work has now been expanded with his appointment as a professor, with main responsibilities for establishing collaborative research network across SDU and UCL within the area of back and neck pain as well as facilitating the implementation of research findings in the institutions’ educational programmes. Per Kjaer’s personality is well-suited to creating bridges between apparently opposing discipline-embedded views or interests. His manner is calm and considerate of others, being a good listener, motivator and facilitator with a genuine interest in helping others to shine. He actively supports students from several disciplines – regardless of whether or not he has a formal supervisory relationship with them - as they know that he will be willing to provide guidance or act as a sounding board for their ideas or concerns.
Bridging the gap between science and clinical practice is one of Per Kjaer’s passions. He has been instrumental in improving evidence-based practice in the musculoskeletal area by leading quality assurance working groups on safety in the management of neck pain, in clinical reasoning, in the classification of people with low back pain, and in the effect of manual therapy on low back pain. Per has organised and held more than 40 workshops in physiotherapy practice with the purpose of disseminating and implementing the results of this work (see Table 2 below under Teaching).
Per Kjaer was a member of the Danish National Indicator Project Physiotherapy that set the standards for optimal treatment of people with back pain. He has also been the leader of a number of groups tasked with the responsibility of developing clinical guidelines: one for safety in the treatment of neck pain (initiated by the Danish Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy Association), another for the examination of people with neck pain (initiated by the Danish Physiotherapy Association), and another for non-surgical treatment of cervical radiculopathy (initiated by the Danish Health and Medicines Authority). Per has recently been involved as a professional writer in multidisciplinary working groups, with responsibility for collating all relevant information for the development of a clinical guidelines for non-surgical treatment for lumbar radiculopathy and for cervical radiculopathy, which are now available in both Danish and English. Per has received awards for his work in researching and developing these clinical guidelines.