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Heritage College scientist receives $400K from NIH to conduct back pain study

(ATHENS, Ohio — Sept. 18, 2015) The economic toll of low back pain is significant, costing about $26 billion annually to treat the problem and $14 billion in lost wages. It also causes considerable pain and can lead to disability and reduced physical activity. A study called Back Exercises to Neutralize Disability (The BEND Study) at the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine is testing a promising exercise that may improve muscle size and function in patients with recurrent low back pain.

The BEND Study, funded by a $408,375 grant from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, is implementing Kaatsu training principles, a technique developed by a Japanese sports scientist that uses a device resembling a blood pressure cuff. Straps temporarily restrict blood flow to a particular area while a person exercises using low weights. Studies have found that muscle can strengthen more quickly using the restricted blood flow technique. Findings from a pilot study conducted by Brian Clark, Ph.D., professor of neuromuscular physiology and executive director of the Ohio Musculoskeletal and Neurological Institute (OMNI), also suggests that Kaatsu could be beneficial for certain individuals, muscle conditions or locations that can’t safely use high weights.

“As part of their rehabilitation, many people with lower back pain are instructed to do low-weight or low-intensity exercises. However, these exercises haven’t been very effective at stimulating the muscle to grow and adapt. Increasing the weight-load or intensity could cause more harm to a person’s spine due to increased compressive loading. It’s a rehabilitation Catch-22,” said Clark. “Kaatsu has the potential of providing the benefits of higher exercise intensities, but using lower weights. We believe we can stimulate the lower back muscles to grow and adapt without the high compressive forces that could cause more damage.”

If findings from the study, now in its second year, demonstrate that the Kaatsu technique is effective, it could provide a cost-effective and easy-to-use rehabilitation strategy for individuals with low back pain.

“Through the research of Dr. Clark and others at the Heritage College, we are developing a knowledge base and tools that will improve the quality of life for many people in Ohio and elsewhere,” said Heritage College Executive Dean Kenneth H. Johnson, D.O.

To learn more about the study, contact OMNI at 740.566.OMNI or An online survey to determine participant eligibility is also available.

The Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine is a leader in training dedicated primary care physicians who are prepared to address the most pervasive medical needs in the state and the nation. Approximately 50 percent of Heritage College alumni practice in primary care and nearly 60 percent practice in Ohio. CARE LEADS HERE.


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Last updated: 01/28/2016