Ready, set, research

Researchers study osteopathic approach to back pain, Parkinson’s disease

After receiving research grants from the AOA, nine investigators are moving osteopathic research forward. Here’s a look at two projects.

In June, the AOA awarded more than $1 million in research grants to nine principal investigators to conduct osteopathically focused research projects. Increasing the impact of osteopathic research is one of the key tenets of the AOA’s strategic plan.

Two of those principal investigators, John Licciardone, DO, MS, MBA, and Kendi Hensel, DO, PhD, are using their funds on projects that are investigating the benefits of osteopathic treatment on low back pain and Parkinson’s disease. Here’s a closer look at what they’re doing and how their projects will propel osteopathic research forward.

How AOA grants support osteopathic research

Dr. Licciardone, who is researching the effect of osteopathic treatment on patients with low back pain, says the AOA’s grant will support a research project called PRECISION TEXAS, a large-scale effort to study the biopsychosocial aspects of low back pain, as well as various treatments. PRECISION TEXAS was created by the Osteopathic Research Center at the University of North Texas Health Science Center Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine (UNTHSC-TCOM) in Fort Worth, where Dr. Licciardone is a professor.

John Licciardone, DO, MS, MBA

“The specific aim of the AOA grant is to look at MDs and DOs who are treating low back pain to illustrate the characteristics of each type of physician in terms of their communication style, empathy, and other aspects of patient satisfaction,” Dr. Licciardone says. “We will also be looking at patient outcomes.”

For Dr. Hensel, who is looking at the effects of osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) on gait kinematics and postural control in Parkinson’s disease patients, the funds will not only support the work of the biomedical engineers and PhD researchers involved with the project, but also support the use of motion capture technology within the study’s patient population.

“We are conducting the first study we know of that examines the use of OMT for Parkinson’s disease on the body compared to the head,” says Dr. Hensel, an associate professor in the osteopathic manipulative medicine department at UNTHSC-TCOM. “Subjects will be in spandex body suits with motion capture markers on most major joints that will allow us to better analyze the effects of OMT in improving the motion of joints and the spine in patients with Parkinson’s disease.”

Spreading the word

Both projects will take two years to complete. Dr. Hensel and Dr. Licciardone are both excited to share their research in peer-reviewed journals.

Kendi Hensel, DO, PhD FAAO

“My plan is to submit the results to The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association,” says Dr. Hensel, adding that she would like to co-author an editorial with Sheldon Yao, DO, another recipient of an AOA grant for a study focusing on the effect of osteopathic manipulation in Parkinson’s disease. “Dr. Yao has been studying Parkinson’s disease for quite a while and has been very encouraging. We hope to collaborate as much as possible.”

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