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Musculoskeletal Research Center

Musculoskeletal diseases in seniors are associated with very high levels of pain, disability and mobility limitations and are the most common reason that patients seek medical care.

The overarching objective of the Musculoskeletal Research Center is to conduct research and disseminate findings on common musculoskeletal conditions of aging such as osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, hyperkyphosis (excessive forward curvature), sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass) and foot disorders, as well as biomechanics of the skeletal system.

We conduct interdisciplinary research to understand the mechanisms underlying musculoskeletal diseases. We test interventions to prevent the occurrence of diseases, their progression and disabling outcomes in older adults. The Musculoskeletal Research Center is the home of the Framingham Osteoporosis Study, the Framingham Spine Health Study, and the Framingham Foot Study, which have contributed to the understanding of risk factors for fracture, hyperkyphosis and for foot disorders and pain. These studies have also led to innovative original research in other related musculoskeletal conditions by our talented faculty and staff.

Significant impacts and research focus areas include:

  • Findings that increased protein intake is better for bone health in older adults have contributed to recent updates by the American Geriatrics Society on its protein recommendations.
  • Development of a method of grading the severity of calcification of the aorta using a lateral view on standard bone density testing led to one of the manufacturers of bone density equipment adding it to their software.
  • Nutrition studies have highlighted the important role of dietary protei, vitamins and minerals, dairy foods, and dietary patterns for older adults. These studies have contributed to the scientific literature and contribute towards the nutrition policy debates on optimal dietary recommendations for healthy aging in older Americans.
  • Research has brought needed focus on the long-ignored role of feet in the well-established increased risk of falls, mobility limitations and physical disability with age. 
  • A clinical trial of low magnitude whole body vibration did not improve bone or muscle, suggesting that this may not be the best way to maintain musculoskeletal health.
  • Demonstration that high resolution skeletal imaging can add important information to the prediction of fracture risk
  • Genetic studies that have demonstrated hundreds of new genes that influence bone health and could ultimately be used to develop new treatments for osteoporosis.