10 questions with… Michael Swain


As a teenager Mike Swain loved competitive sports but his on-field career was often interrupted by injuries and back pain. It was during many hours spent seeking help from healthcare providers that his interest in being chiropractor was seeded.

Mike graduated as a chiropractor from Macquarie in 2005 and started teaching as a sessional academic in 2006. He also completed a PhD at the Institute for Musculoskeletal Health at the University of Sydney, expending his interest in the area of pain and injury in adolescents and young adults.

As a chiropractor he has worked in private practice, and alongside community rugby union and the professional surfing circuit. His clinical interest in sports injuries led him to complete a Master of Philosophy at Macquarie University where he investigated neck injuries in rugby union.

In the chiropractic profession, Mike serves as a Director of Chiropractic Australia and as a Fellow of the Royal College of Chiropractors (UK). During his impressive carrier, he has convened research and education events, and supported initiatives to provide best-practice care and improve patient outcomes.

At Macquarie he splits his time between his research seeking to improve musculoskeletal pain in adolescence; and teaching as a Senior Lecturer and Director of Research Training in the Department of Chiropractic. Outside of work he loves surfing and spending time with his family at the beach.

1. Something you’d like staff to know about
In Australia and elsewhere, low back pain and other musculoskeletal conditions become the leading cause of disability by the end of adolescence. Chronic musculoskeletal pain often starts in adolescence. Despite there being many studies in the low back pain field, clinical research in children and adolescents remains scarce and a disproportionally understudied area.

2. Something you feel proud of
This year I was in a team of investigators who were awarded $1.2 million dollars by the Medical Research Future Fund. We plan to conduct a study called ‘Pain Smart’ that will integrate and test a health education intervention delivered to adolescents alongside a managed care approach for those who experience musculoskeletal pain.

3. A person you admire at Macquarie, and why
Distinguished Prof Lesley Hughes is amazing! I was fortunate to have served as a representative on the ECR Network Advisory Group, and recently participated in the MCR Development Program. Lesley’s deep contribution to academic leadership, citizenship, and community at MQ is inspiring. I admire Lesley’s person-centred approach and her ability to build rapport.

4. What you need to do your best work
I’m going to plug the mid-career researcher (MCR) Development Program. I took a session of the program called ‘Getting things done’. In it we reflected on ‘Sharpening the Saw’, a method which is about investing time to ensure work processes are uncluttered and efficient. For example, in workspace, email, CV and Pure.
5. The coolest bit of equipment you use in your work, and what it does
While I’ve done a little bit of biomechanical lab research with cool gizmos, most of my research work is set in the community. We’ve been using REDCap, a browser-based software to track the course of spinal pain episodes in adolescents. We’ve added a communication platform (Twilio) into our REDCap project so that we can send out weekly measures via text message. The response rate so far is great.

6. Something people usually ask you when they find out what you do for living
“What’s the difference between physiotherapy and chiropractic?”
It can be a strangely emotive question in certain circumstances, and it’s hard to give a straightforward response. I’ve asked my PhD supervisors who are physios, and close colleagues who have completed both physio and chiro degree programs at Macquarie (they’re outstanding clinicians by the way). I still can’t find the answer but I’m excited to be working in the Faculty of Medicine, Health and Human Sciences and the opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration.

7. Something you’ve read recently that has had an impact on you
I wanted to do something positive for my health after the 2021 lockdown. At the start of the year I read a book by Dr Michael Mosley, which had an impact on me – approximately negative 8Kgs of impact.

8. A favourite photo from your camera roll

A photo of the inaugural cohort of the Chiropractic Academy of Research Leadership, an international research/leadership training program for early and mid-career researchers taken in Berlin in 2019. We had annual meetings in Odense, Edmonton, and Berlin, and then we missed the final meeting in Sydney 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I made many friends during this formative stage of my career; I’m hoping we can meet-up again when the world reopens fully.


9. The first person you go to for advice (and why)
For many things, I go to my wife, Tamaryn. I value her opinion.

10. Where you live and what you like about living there
I live in Mona Vale, a couple of streets back from the beach. I like surfing, being in nature and the physical and mental aspects of riding waves. I have two young children and we enjoy swimming in the pool, exploring the rockpools and walk along the beach.





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