Creative project invites young people with arthritis to develop products and technology to help improve their life

An exciting new project called #DesignforMSK has been launched by the NIHR Manchester Musculoskeletal Biomedical Research Unit (BRU), inviting young people to work with product designers, and researchers to design new products to help improve daily issues faced by those with musculoskeletal conditions.

#DesignforMSK is looking for volunteers aged between 16-26 years old who have a musculoskeletal condition, to take part in three fun and interactive lunchtime workshops on the 12th, 27th August and 1st October at Ziferblat, Edge Street, Manchester, to work together to design products to be turned into prototypes.

Many believe that arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions only affect older generations, but thousands of young people are also living with these painful and debilitating conditions.

Musculoskeletal conditions in young people include autoimmune diseases, such as lupus and arthritis. This means that the body’s own immune system, which normally protects us against harmful bacteria and other pathogens, starts attacking the body. This can lead to pain, swelling and damage to the joints and other parts of the body. Along with fatigue and other limitations, this can make daily life a challenge.

University of Manchester graduate Simon Stones, 22, was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis at the age of three and fibromyalgia at the age of 18. Simon explains why this project is so important in raising awareness of musculoskeletal conditions in young people:

“All too often musculoskeletal conditions in young people are hidden. These young people just want to get on with life and fit in with their friends. Despite advances in treatment and clinical care, a number of barriers remain, particularly around completing everyday activities, which healthy individuals may take for granted.

“This project is a great initiative whereby patients can work alongside researchers and designers to design solutions for people living with musculoskeletal conditions, to make everyday life a little bit easier.”

Working in collaboration with Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, the NIHR Manchester Musculoskeletal BRU aims to not only raise awareness about musculoskeletal conditions in young people but gives those with such conditions an active role in finding solutions.

Wendy Thomson, Professor of Genetic Epidemiology at The University of Manchester and NIHR Manchester Musculoskeletal BRU Theme Lead for Inflammatory Arthritis in Children said:

“#DesignforMSK provides an opportunity for young people, alongside designers and researchers, to get involved in finding practical solutions to difficulties faced every day as a result of their conditions.

We hope the workshops will also promote discussion amongst the groups inspiring researchers to explore new ways to improve the quality of life for individuals with these conditions and to actively involve young people in developing innovative research projects in the future.

The very best ideas from the workshops will be developed into prototypes of products and will go on display at an exhibition in Manchester later in the year.

Those who can’t attend can join in on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook by submitting images that depict the way musculoskeletal conditions affect your life, just search for #DesignforMSK. The images will then be used by art students at the Manchester Metropolitan University to inspire new products that could make lives easier and more enjoyable.

Further information about the workshop:

The design workshop is open to anyone between the ages of 16-26 with a musculoskeletal condition. Reasonable travel costs will be covered, refreshments will be provided, and participants will be given a shopping voucher as a thank you for taking part.

  • Friday 12th August 11am-2pm
  • Sat 27th August 1-4pm
  • Sat 1st October 1-4pm

For more details or to sign up, please visit, follow us on Twitter or Instagram @designforMSK, find us on Facebook or email