October 03, 2013
Geoffrey Bove, D.C., Ph.D., an associate research professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences, recently received a $790,000 Research Project Grant, which is funded by the Public Health Service through the National Institutes of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). Bove’s team includes Susan Chapelle, RMT (Squamish, British Columbia), and Adrienne McAuley, MEd, DPT (assistant clinical professor, Department of Physical Therapy, University of New England).
The group will be extending Bove and Chapelle’s previous studies of abdominal massage to prevent the formation of postsurgical scar tissue and to relieve disruption to the pattern of muscle contractions that move food through the digestive tract, called ileus.
The specific type of abdominal massage that the researchers are studying, visceral manipulation, is a very old practice of providing relief from constipation, with evidence of its use found in Mayan records. The research team believes that this method of treatment, in addition to being used for digestive issues, can also reduce the formation of scar tissue, or adhesions, that affect organs following surgical procedures, such as pelvic surgeries due to cancer or Cesarean births.
Bove and Chapelle’s initial experiments demonstrated that a trained therapist could identify experimental adhesions in a rat model and disrupt them using manual methods. Further experiments revealed a link between postoperative adhesions and ileus. Their planned experiments will extend these findings.
While visceral manipulation is currently performed by massage therapists, osteopaths, and other therapists to relieve adhesions, other than Bove’s and Chapelle’s initial research, no evidence supports the usefulness of the modality beyond its known beneficial effects on constipation. Bove states, “If our research data shows that visceral manipulation reduces or prevents postoperative adhesions in our rat models, human studies would be the next logical step, and this could translate into significant cost savings to our health care system and improved outcomes for patients.”