Can osteopathic manipulation treat
AOA-funded research studies manual therapyís effect on nervous
By Elizabeth Boyle
Dec. 5, 2011
Humans tend to sweat during vigorous activity, when the temperature
rises or when circumstances trigger an emotional response. Some of
us, however, sweat excessively and without obvious reason.
Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine
scientist Thad Wilson, Ph.D., has received a $98,400
American Osteopathic Association grant for a research project
that could benefit those who experience this problem, a disorder
known as hyperhidrosis.
Wilsonís study will determine whether osteopathic manipulation
treatment (OMT)―a form of manual therapy that involves mobilizing
parts of the body―has the ability to alter the autonomic nervous
systemís output to the skin and help decrease sweat gland function.
Wilson, an associate professor of physiology and researcher with the
Ohio Musculoskeletal and Neurological Institute (OMNI), is
collaborating on the project with
Stevan Walkowski, D.O.,
assistant professor in the department of family medicine and a
specialist in osteopathic manipulative medicine, and
Kristen Metzler-Wilson, P.T., Ph.D., assistant professor of physical
therapy in the
College of Health Sciences and Professions.
OMT has never been combined with direct skin sympathetic outflow
assessment, Wilson explained. To conduct the study, the researchers
will use a technique known as microneurography, in which they place
a recording electrode―a thin, needle-like device―next to a nerve in
each participantís leg.
ďAny nerve traffic thatís sent past the electrode can be recorded Ē
Wilson said. ďItís kind of like tapping into the brain-skin phone
First the scientists will record nerve responses on participants
with normal sweating patterns under both average and elevated
temperatures, which they control by asking participants to wear a
tight-fitting suit lined with small tubes. The researchers will pass
warm or cool water through the tubes to change the participantsí
exposure to different temperatures. Walkowski or an osteopathic
manipulation medicine research fellow will perform manipulative
therapy on the participants before and during the temperature
Participants who have overactive sweat gland function will then have
their nerve activity measured and will undergo OMT. Thus, there will
be a normal healthy group, a normally healthy group with an acute
increase in skin nerve activity, and a hyperhidrosis group who has a
chronic increase in skin nerve activity.
The research could eventually lead to interventions for people with
hyperhidrosis, a disorder that affects 7.8 million Americans and has
both physical and emotional side effects.