Ottar Vasseljen

Professor Institutt for samfunnsmedisin og sykepleie
Håkon Jarls gate 11, Øya Helsehus * 153.04.004

Bakgrunn og aktiviteter


  • Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy, University of Utah, USA (1982)
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Work Physiology), University of Trondheim, Norway (1995)

Previous academic positions

  • Post-doc at Div. of Organization and Work Science, NTH, University of Trondheim, Norway (1995-1998)
  • Researcher at Dep. of Public Health and General Practice, NTNU, Norway (2000-2003)
  • Associate professor at Dep. of Public Health and General Practice, NTNU, Norway (2003-2010)
  • Visiting academic at University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia (2006-2007)
  • Visting academic at University of Utah, Salt Lake City, USA (feb-mar 2012)
  • Professor at Dep. of Public Health and General Practice, NTNU, Norway (2010- )


Current research

Research is within musculoskeletal disorders primarily of the neck, shoulders and lower back. It entails basic science, method development, clinical trials, interventional studies, work rehabilitation and epidemiological cohort studies. Of major interest is to explore mechanisms behind neck and low back pain, both in an epidemiological sense, but also in basic science approches, i.e., how the brain in terms of motion and motor control adapt to long-standing pain. The long-term goal is to provide better prevention, diagnostics and treatment strategies for the target groups.

Current and recent research projects:

  • 3D-motion tracking system has been adopted and refined to record and analyze motor control and trajectory patterns in the neck. This has been applied in a cross-sectional study to discriminate between whiplash, chronic neck pain and healthy subjects, and is further developed in a current observational study in the clinic of patients with chronic neck pain.
  • Natural course, risk and prognostic factors for low back and neck pain are studied in the general population as part of The Nord-Trøndelag Health Survey (The HUNT Study), one of the largest health surveys ever performed.
  • The FYSIOPRIM project (collaboration with University of Oslo):
    • Describe patients and interventions, and investigating course and prognostic factors in neck and low back pain patients in physiotherapy primary care practice.
    • Exploring collaborative models in primary care to promote research participation, knowledge and interest among physiotherapist in primary care settings.
  • The effect of work-related rehabilitation on return-to-work is currently being studied in a RCT for patients sick-listed due to musculoskeletal or mild psychological disorders (The Hysnes Study).
  • Developing advanced methods for detailed recordings of physical activity and quantifying sedentary life in the general population (HUNT 4 survey) and clinical settings.
  • Self-management and development of a decision support system - selfBACK -based on predictive computer modelling in low back pain (EU-project 2016-2021, coordinators)


Teaching and supervision

  • Lectures in applied clinical science methods and musculoskeletal disorders for master and medical students. Research methods are primarily thought in the Master of Clinical Health science program (clinical designs including RCTs, diagnostic tests, reliability, critical reading, research protocol and research writing). Supervising master and PhD students.

Academic activites

  • Reviewer for the following scientific journals: British Medical Journal, Spine, Journal of Applied Physiology, Journal of Rheumatology, Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine, BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, Manual therapy, Journal of Physiotherapy, Physiotherapy Theory and Practice, European Journal of Pain, and European Journal of Sports Science.
  • Grant reviewer for South-Eastern Norway Regional Health Authority for for Northern Norway Regional Health Authority, and reviewer of grant application for The Health Research Board of Ireland.
  • Appointed member of the External Scientific Board of the Swedish FAS centre; the body at work-from problem to potential (Centre of Excellence), Gävle, Sweden, (2011- ).
  • Opponent at five doctoral dissertations in Norway and Denmark.
  • Chair of Master in Clinical Health Science at NTNU (2009-2015). Member of the programme board for Master in Health Science and PhD programme boards in Health Science, Community Medicine and the central PhD committee at Faculty of Medicine, NTNU.
  • Member of The National Council for Master and PhD Programs in Health Science, The Norwegian Association of Higher Education Institution.
  • Head of the Primary Health Care and Social Medicine Research Group and member of management team at Department of Public Health and General Practice, NTNU.
  • Managed the development of the first Centre of Competence in Physiotherapy Research at NTNU (at the Dep. of Public Health and General Practice).
  • Contributed to raise US $ 18-19 million for previous, ongoing and current collaborative research projects.
  • Awarded price for best research project in 2009 on neck and low back pain by The Norwegian Organization for Spinal Research. Awarded the Musculoskeletal price of 2013 from the Norwegian manual therapy service office.
  • Approx. 40 publications in international peer-reviewed scientific journals with average citations per published article of 45 (range 0-269), h-index 20 (Dec. 2015).
  • Chaired scientific sessions at international conferences.
  • Regularly poster and platform presentations at international conferences with review (USA, Canada, Australia, United Arab Emirates, Netherlands, Scotland, Denmark and Norway)

Vitenskapelig, faglig og kunstnerisk arbeid

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