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Why It Matters  |  What We Are Doing Who Is Involved


Why It Matters

Arthritis is the most common cause of disability in the U.S. According to the CDC, 22% of all adults report a diagnosis of arthritis and 9% are limited in daily activities as a result. Globally, arthritis, back pain and other musculoskeletal conditions currently affect over 1.7 billion people (Lancet, 2012). Worldwide rates have increased by 45% over the last 20 years and are expected to continue to increase sharply as the world population ages and grows heavier.. In terms of death and disability, arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions have the fourth greatest impact on the overall health of the world population.


What We Are Doing

Faculty from across the Gillings School study both physical and psychosocial aspects of arthritis prevention and control. Recently our researchers have developed an automated, web-based pain coping skills training program for people with pain due to osteoarthritis of the hip or knee (“PainCOACH”) in collaboration with Duke University. They are working with researchers in Australia to evaluate an intervention pairing PainCOACH with physiotherapy. They are finding ways to help couples coping with arthritis work together more successfully to initiate and maintain increased lifestyle physical activity, and exploring the impact of social support on pain control and arthritis self-managment. Read More

Researchers are also studying the development of arthritis after trauma in military populations and former college and professional athletes. They are exploring the relationship between osteoarthritis and injury, leg length inequality and foot disorders. They are seeking better biochemical and biomechanical markers of osteoarthritis in order to improve diagnosis and care.

A new multidisciplinary clinical research center was recently established at UNC to seek better ways to address the costly public health issue of osteoarthritis. The center is part of the Thurston Arthritis Research Center, which aims to mitigate the public health impact of osteoarthritis. The center will focus on understanding what causes and contributes to developing arthritis and resulting disability; identifying best practices to help communities address this public health issue; and transforming the face of arthritis research by serving as a center for innovation, training and collaboration.

Who Is Involved

Our leaders in arthritis come from across the Gilling School, and include our world-class faculty, staff, post-docs and students. This overview only captures a fraction of the important research, teaching, and public service efforts in arthritis at the Gillings School. Please explore the individual leader descriptions to learn more about their work.