DCRI Musculoskeletal Research upholds the DCRI’s core values of integrity, excellence, respect, innovation, and teamwork by:

  • Serving as a catalyst for research partnerships that shape tomorrow’s healthcare delivery
  • Functioning as an internationally recognized center for rigor in research areas with the highest impact on public health
  • Creating a robust training environment that stimulates debate and fosters professional development for all career stages
  • Challenging current paradigms of scientific translation and dissemination to improve efficiency and improve health outcomes

Disorders of the musculoskeletal system are quite common, with almost every individual seeking medical care at some point during his or her life.

Because of their frequency and interference with the ability to perform critical tasks of daily living, musculoskeletal disorders are a major determinant of health of both individuals and populations. The disease burden of musculoskeletal pain alone represents an estimated 20 percent of healthcare expenditures, well ahead of cancer and cardiovascular disease.  Osteoarthritis alone is predicted to be the fourth-leading cause of disability by 2025.

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.

Steven George, PhD, PT
Director of Musculoskeletal Research, DCRI

"Specific to musculoskeletal pain, there is desperate need for nonpharmacological and noninvasive pain relief solutions. 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."
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Research Highlights

Fewer opioids over more time linked to lower costs, better outcomes

With opioid overdoses and abuse a subject of growing concern for public health agencies, the Centers for Disease Control issued a series of guidelines in 2016 intended to improve communication between clinicians and patients about the risks and benefits of opioid drug therapy.

Virtual Rehabilitation Therapy

Reflexion Health, Inc. and the DCRI have announced the enrollment of the first patients in Virtual Exercise Rehabilitation In-home Therapy: A Research Study (VERITAS), which is designed to evaluate the cost and outcomes of using a virtual rehabilitation platform to deliver physical therapy following total knee replacement surgery.

Electrical Stimulation for Back Pain

In this Physician's Weekly article, Corey Simon, DPT, PhD, discusses how transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) can help older adults who experience back pain.

Key Scientific Areas of Study

DCRI Musculoskeletal Research is a multi-disciplinary research team working towards discoveries to reduce the impact of musculoskeletal pain on health, physical function, and quality of life.

  • Predicting and preventing transition from acute to chronic musculoskeletal pain
  • Establishing optimal care pathways for common operative and non-operative musculoskeletal conditions
  • Determining 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

DCRI Musculoskeletal Leadership

Steven George, PhD, PT
Director of Musculoskeletal Research, DCRI
Vice Chair of Clinical Research, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery


Steven George, PhD, PT, is 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.

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DCRI Musculoskeletal Research provides the thought leadership needed to:

  • Ignite the next generation of innovative clinical research that will transform musculoskeletal practice
  • Improve the delivery of patient care around the world though interactions among our scholars, practitioners, and trainees
  • Express powerful ideas through project development, teaching programs, scholarly publications, conferences, colloquia, and workshops

Recent Awards and Recognition

Steven Z. George, PT, PhD, FAPTA selected as Catherine Worthingham Fellow of the American Physical Therapy Association

We would like to congratulate Steven Z. George, PT, PhD, FAPTA on being selected as a Catherine Worthingham Fellow of the American Physical Therapy Association! As a new Fellow, Dr. George is recognized for attaining the highest level of professional excellence and impact in terms of advancing the profession that Catherine Worthingham, PT, PhD, FAPTA, exemplified.

Read more here.


We would like to congratulate Adam Goode, DPT, PhD (pictured left); Janet Bettger, ScD (pictured center); Lynn Bowlby, MD, BSPT; Erik Carvalho, PT, DPT; Marissa Carvalho, DPT; and Daniel Dore, PT, DPT, MHA (pictured right), whose proposal, “Integration of Musculoskeletal Physical Therapy Care in the Patient Centered Medical Home,” has been selected for $134,000 of federal funding from the Duke Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CTSI), which is the academic home of the National Institutes of Health’s Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) funding program.

Recent Presentations

During the APTA Combined Sections Meeting in San Antonio, Texas, Chad Cook, PhD, gave the Pauline Cerasoli lecture to a full house. The Cerasoli lecturer, a prestigious honor, is selected annually by the APTA education committee and Dr. Cook was selected as the 20th Annual Lecturer.


Steven George, PhD, delivers the 21st John H.P. Maley Lecture, "Pain Management: Roadmap to Revolution," at the APTA 2016 NEXT Conference and Exposition.




Chad Cook, PhD, presents the Keynote Address on Differential Diagnosis at the 5th Biennial Emirates Physiotherapy Conference, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 2016.



Chad Cook, PhD, at the International Low Back Pain and Manual Therapy Debate, Glasgow, Scotland, 2016.