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Neuromotor Behavior and Pain Lab

Margaret Finley's research has strongly relied on biomechanical analyses of human dynamics in functional activities, translating scientific innovation into clinical practice. Her interest is primarily secondary conditions in persons with chronic impairments, activity and participation limitations. Her ongoing work will provide specific information on how pain, biological, psychological and social determinants impact community participation in individuals, specifically from the transition from the acute phase following newly acquired SCI throughout community re-integration. Employing quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods, she utilizes lived experience perspectives and identifies needs regarding physical activity and community engage of individuals with SCI. Currently her lab is developing accessible, inclusive physical activity programs to address psychological factors, social factors and activity engagement to mitigate the long-term adverse effects of inactivity in people with disabilities. She has been funded by the Department of Defense and is currently funded by the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation and the Pennsylvania Department of Health SCI Research Platform. 

Principal Investigator

Margaret Finley, PT, PhD

Margaret A. Finley, PT, PhD
Associate Professor - Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Science

Health Sciences Building, 11th Floor, Room 11W49
60 N. 36th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104



Pub Med | Scopus

Tele-exercise for Individuals with SCI: Physical, Psychological and Social Determinants (2023-2026)

Funded by PA Dept of Health Spinal Cord Injury Program

The objective of this mixed-methods study is to examine the efficacy of our participant-centered tele-health physical activity program (Tele Exercise to promote Empowered Movement with Spinal Cord Injury, TEEMS) for individuals with SCI on physical and personal determinants through a parallel mixed-methods design approach. This design will foster development of lifelong physical activity behaviors through addressing self-efficacy specifically as it pertains to exercise, providing expert knowledge translation with peer interaction and mentoring.

Role: Principal Investigator

Integrated tele-exercise for individuals with SCI: psychological and social responses (2022–2024)

Funded by CHNF Psychological Research Program

Our goals to engage individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI) as informed stakeholders and implement a participant-centered health and wellness program that addresses specific needs for accessible, individualized, peer-oriented physical activity and considers psychological and social wellness of a diverse individuals with SCI, across the lifespan. Our project will examine the feasibility of a community-based telehealth and wellness program that integrates physical activity and social engagement with an emphasis on promoting psychosocial wellbeing in individuals with SCI.

Role: Principal Investigator

Movement Connection: Physical activity engagement in those aging with Spinal Cord Injury (2020–2021)

Funded by Cell2Society Aging Research Network Pilot Funding

We aimed to implement an integrated health and wellness physical activity program to mitigate secondary conditions from living with SCI, a chronic health condition. The results of the current pilot investigation determine feasibility metrics as well as limited efficacy guiding further program development. Our long-term goal is to improve current management of SCI, prevent the development of secondary illness and enhance. This project addressed concerns in order to create an inclusive environment for individuals with SCI as well as prevent the development of secondary conditions. The Movement Connection Project is designed to address the unique concerns identified in our research findings by implementing accessible physical activity classes in our local as well as the broader community.

Role: Principal Investigator

Development of a Biopsychosocial Prospective Surveillance Model of Shoulder Pain in Individuals with Spinal Cord Injury (2017-2021)

Funded by s CDMRP Spinal Cord Injury Research Program (Award W81XWH-17-1-0476)

This study investigated the progression of musculoskeletal and psychosocial impairments for the first year following SCI, starting with inpatient rehabilitation, at 6 months, and at 1 year following injury. Our research is performed at two facilities: Drexel University (in collaboration with Magee Rehabilitation Hospital and Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital) and the University of Maryland Rehabilitation & Orthopaedic Institute.

We aimed to identify sources of biopsychosocial shoulder pain to establish effective physical and cognitive-behavioral treatment to prevent loss of function and independence in individuals with SCI who depend on their arms for activities of daily living, transfers, and wheelchair propulsion. Early identification of problem areas may provide a method to refer a patient for treatment or to change ongoing intervention. Development of a biopsychosocial prospective surveillance model will provide a proactive approach to reduce the debilitating consequences of activity limitations and participation restrictions in individuals with SCI, reducing the burden currently experienced by military service members, veterans, and their families and caregivers.

Role: Principal Investigator

Engagement of stakeholder and community partners in a health and wellness program during community reintegration following Spinal Cord injury (2020-2021)

Funded by College of Nursing and Health Professions Accelerator Implementation Grant

Our purpose of this implementation accelerator grant was to engage stakeholders and community partners to identify specific needs, attitudes, perceptions and feasibility of physical activity (PA) interventions to individuals with new spinal cord injury (SCI). Magee Rehabilitation Hospital was the community partner. Through stakeholder focus groups we identified needs, attitudes, perceptions, barriers, facilitators and personal interest in participation in a community-based health and wellness program. Stakeholder groups were 1) individuals with newly acquired SCI; 2) caregivers/family members; and 3) wellness center personnel (to include rehabilitation therapists, wellness center trainers, administration.). Our long term objective is to determine if participation in a multidisciplinary community-based health and wellness program will improve biopsychosocial factors for individuals with SCI during the critical phase of transition to community living.

Research Collaborations

Internal Collaborators

  • Clare Milner, PhD, Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science
  • Sarah Wenger, PT, DPT, OCS, FNAP, Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science
  • Girija Kaimal, EdD, MA, Creative Arts Therapy
  • Michael Bruneau, Jr, PhD, ACSM, EP-C, NASM CPT, Health Sciences

External Collaborators

  • Shivayogi Hiremath, PhD - Temple University
  • Laura Baehr, PT, DPT, PhD, Temple University
  • Mary Schmidt-Read, PT, DT, MS- Spinal Cord Injury Program Director and Research Coordinator, Magee Rehabilitation Network, Thomas Jefferson University
  • Henry York, MD, Chief of the Spinal Cord Injury (SCI/D) Service at the VA San Diego Healthcare System (VASDHS)
DoD team standing in front of a blue sky