Objective and subjective experiences of pain

Pain and Injury Among Older Recreational Exercisers

Project reference number: GSBS-S2018-012-Tulle

There is considerable evidence to show that physical activity prolongs healthy living among people aged 60 and over. However the proportion of older people meeting physical activity guidelines remains low. In response to population ageing policy-makers are keen to encourage more older people to be physically active. A range of initiatives to encourage take-up and long-term adherence has emerged (e.g. Falls Prevention interventions, jogscotland, etc.), addressed at a range of social actors: asymptomatic people but also people with chronic conditions or co-morbidities. Engagement in physical activity can involve experiencing injury and pain, either as a result of physical activity or in situations of co-morbidities. This might discourage or hamper physical activity even when the objective signs of pain and injury have disappeared. To-date attention has been on elite sports practitioners (impact on identity), less so on recreational exercisers, particularly older ones. How they deal with pain and injury in the context of continued participation in recreational exercise, what happens in help-seeking encounters and how subjective and objective signs coincide will be the focus of this studentship. Research in sports medicine and social sciences on pain and injury in the context of physical activity rarely overlaps and this lack of dialogue hampers attempts to improve participation.


The investigation will: - focus on male and female recreational exercisers who are aged 60+ and attend clubs, forums, community groups or patient groups such as ROAR, a provider of preventative, health and wellbeing services for older people in the West of Scotland, with whom Shanmugam already has close links. - explore how people understand pain and injury (e.g. help-seeking practices, if any, catastrophising, expectations of recovery, interactions with service providers) and make decisions (e.g. in relation to own ageing and identity, emotional responses, illness management) individually and in encounters with practitioners.


  • produce a social scientist who is conversant with different research traditions and can engage in scientific debates and policy development.
  • Improve practice about injury diagnosis and management among professionals. 
  • Enhance physical literacy amongst older adults.


Application deadline

The application deadline for October 2018 start is 1st of July 2018.

Research supervisors

Candidates are encouraged to contact the following researchers for further details:

Mode of Study

This project is available as a:

  • PhD: 3 years full-time or 4.5 years part-time;
  • 1 + 3 route to PhD: Undertaking MRes, 1 year full-time or 2 years part-time + PhD as above


Applicants will normally hold a UK honours degree 2:1 (or equivalent); or a Masters degree in a subject relevant to the research project. Equivalent professional qualifications and any appropriate research experience may be considered. A minimum English language level of IELTS score of 6.5 (or equivalent) with no element below 6.0 is required. Some research disciplines may require higher levels.

Specific requirements of the project

The successful applicant will be either a social science graduate with an interest in social gerontology, health inequalities and medical sociology, or a sport or physiotherapy graduate with an interest in the critical analysis of society and patient/professional encounters. Applicants should have obtained a first degree with a 2:1 or above classification for a 1+3 studentship. Only applicants with a postgraduate qualification in Research Methods will be considered for a +3 award.