Communication Home

Thad Wilson, Ph.D.

Can osteopathic manipulation treat sweat disorders?
AOA-funded research studies manual therapyís effect on nervous system

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 line.Ē

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 changes.

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.

  Office of Communication
Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine
210 Irvine Hall, Athens, Ohio 45701
Tel: 740-593-2346 FAX: 740-593-0343
Copyright Ohio University (Home)
Last updated: 01/28/2016