The DCRI's Musculoskeletal research team conducts innovative clinical research in an effort to transform musculoskeletal practice and improve patient outcomes.

Finding Better Ways to Treat Pain

Musculoskeletal disorders are common and interfere with patients' ability to perform critical tasks of daily life. Because of this, musculoskeletal disorders are a major determinant of health for both individuals and populations.

Despite the significant financial costs and health implications of musculoskeletal disease, there is little clinical research identifying population needs and trends and comparing outcomes of different treatment approaches.

The DCRI's Musculoskeletal group is a multidisciplinary research team working toward discoveries to reduce the impact of musculoskeletal pain on health, physical function, and quality of life.

Our Work Involves

  • Predicting and preventing the transition from acute to chronic musculoskeletal pain
  • Establishing optimal care pathways for common operative and non-operative musculoskeletal conditions
  • Determining the efficacy and effectiveness of non-pharmacological treatments
  • Identifying age-specific mechanisms of chronic pain and physical function decline
  • Understanding and improving the healthcare provider’s role in patient management


Illustration of woman doing exercises


The VERITAS clinical trial showed that a virtual rehabilitation assistant designed to provide physical therapy following total knee replacement surgery enabled a substantial reduction in costs and rehospitalizations while being as effective as traditional physical therapy.



A DCRI study analyzed which risk factors are associated with persistent high-cost utilization for patients with musculoskeletal pain. These risk factors could provide insight into how health care delivery models could help to alleviate the cost burden.


Woman performing physical therapy


DCRI researchers and their colleagues found that early physical therapy for pain patients reduced subsequent opioid use by approximately 10 percent. Their findings could have important implications for how physicians treat patients with various types of pain.

Personalizing Pain Management

Steven George, PT, PhD, director of DCRI Musculoskeletal Research, says there is a desperate need for nonpharmacological and noninvasive pain relief solutions, specifically when it comes to musculoskeletal pain. This need is highlighted daily in mainstream news as the opioid addiction and overdose epidemic continues unabated. This epidemic has garnered attention from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which now recommends nonpharmacological options as a frontline alternative for chronic pain.

Watch the video above as George discusses factors that should be taken into account while treating musculoskeletal pain and the importance of creating individualized, effective treatment plans that will result in less opioid use.

Musculoskeletal Leadership at the DCRI

Steven George, PhD, PT, Director

Steven George

Steven George is a professor and director of Musculoskeletal Research in the DCRI and vice-chair of Clinical Research in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. As a clinical researcher, George focuses on musculoskeletal health as part of the DCRI's effort to participate in the advancement of exciting new interdisciplinary research at Duke. He also leads the collaborative relationship between the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and the DCRI. George’s research projects have been supported by the National Institutes of Health and Department of Defense and he has been recognized with prestigious research awards from the American Pain Society, American Physical Therapy Association, and International Association for the Study of Pain.

Before coming to Duke, George worked at the University of Florida where he was a tenured professor and director of the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program in the Department of Physical Therapy. He also served as director of the Brooks-PHHP Research Collaboration in the College of Public Health and Health Professions. He earned a PhD in rehabilitation science and an MS in orthopedic physical therapy from the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh, and his PT from West Virginia University.  George also completed a postdoctoral fellowship in pain research and rehabilitation outcomes at the University of Florida.

Awards and Recognition

Chad Cook, PT, PhD, MBA, was selected as a recipient of the American Physical Therapy Association's (APTA) highest distinction, becoming a Catherine Worthingham Fellow. The fellowship is awarded to APTA physical therapist members or life member physical therapists who have demonstrated unwavering efforts to advance the physical therapy profession for more than 15 years.

Adam Goode, PT, DPT, PhD, received the 2019 Eugene Michels New Investigator Award from the APTA. Goode is an associate professor in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery. The New Investigator Award is a prestigious early career research award recognizing physical therapists who have engaged in independent or collaborative research efforts within 10 years of completing their most recent physical therapy professional degree, a post-professional doctoral degree (other than a transition DPT degree), or post-professional doctoral fellowship. Key selection criteria include peer-review publications and external funding record.