Research Projects

Ongoing Studies

Chronic Pain, Motor Output and Motor Learning in Knee Osteoarthritis

Principal Investigator: Katherine Rudolph, Ph.D., P.T.; Co-Investigator: Tamara King, Ph.D.





Recruiting Subjects? Yes 
Student Research Opportunities? Yes 

Research shows that some people with knee osteoarthritis experience buckling and shifting in the knee. Their knee muscles also contract in a way that stiffens the knee resulting in less shock absorption when they walk and higher knee joint compression. Knee buckling and less shock absorption can cause arthritis to advance more quickly so clinicians need to find ways to help patients move safely, without knee buckling and with movement and muscle activation patterns that can stop or slow the progression of the arthritis.

People who have pain for a long time can have changes in the way they perceive pain and other sensations. Pain that lasts for a long time can also change the way that muscles behave during physical activities. In order to teach people with knee arthritis to move in ways that will reduce pain, improve function and slow disease progression. However the ability to learn new movement patterns is highlyn dependent on accurate sensory perception. Impaired sensory perception in people with knee OA may make them less able to learn ways of moving with traditional rehabilitation techniques.

In this research study we will see how pain from knee arthritis affects movement and muscle activation patterns in adults age 50–80 who have knee pain. We will assess sensory perception, how muscles produce force and the ability to learn new movement patterns. Information from people with no knee pain will be compared to information from people with knee osteoarthritis therefore, we are recruiting individuals both with and without knee pain. The results of the study will help clinicians develop treatment programs that will be most effective in reducing pain, improving function, and slowing arthritis progression in people with long standing knee pain.

If you are interested in learning more about the study please call call Amanda Turner at (207) 221-4214 or visit the website.

Presentations from this work:

  1. Rudolph KS, Devine M (DPT '17), Donovitch M (DPT '17). "Quadriceps muscle quickness relates to function in people with knee osteoarthritis". Presented at the APTA Combined Sections Feb 21, 2018, New Orleans, LA

  2. Obecny J. (DPT '18) Chiarella C. (DPT '18). Rudolph KS. Broken Escalator Paradigm Applied to Motor Learning in Knee Osteoarthritis. Presented at the 2nd Annual Maine APTA Winter Symposium. Dec 1, 2017, Portland, ME.

  3. Turcotte H (COM '18), Rudolph KS. Motor Learning and Adaptation in People with Knee Osteoarthritis and Chronic Pain. Presented at the Northeast Osteopathic Medical Education Network - 17th Annual Research And Scholarship Forum, May 17, 2018, Biddeford, ME

  4. Campbell C (DPT '19), Kristofitz D (DPT '19), Tso D (DPT '19), Rudolph KS. How do People with Chronic Pain from Knee OA Control the Knee during a Motor Learning Task? Presented at the Maine Chapter APTA Winter Symposium and Annual Chapter Meeting: November 30, 2018

Exercise Induced Hypoalgesia-Does exercise or its associated pain lead to pain relief?

Principal Investigator: Katherine Rudolph, Ph.D., P.T.
Recruiting Subjects? Yes 

Student Research Opportunities? Yes 

The opioid epidemic has brought attention to the pain relieving effect of exercise, but exercise prescription for pain relief may be quite different from that typically recommended for cardiovascular and other health benefits. Exercise induced hypoalgesia (EIH) is complex and not entirely understood but possible mechanisms include the opioid and non-opioid systems. Hypoalgesia is also known to occur in response to pain itself. Conditioned pain modulation (CPM) is the inhibition of pain from a test stimulus by applying a painful conditioning stimulus. Studies of EIH often involve exercise paradigms in which long duration muscle contractions are used. Long duration muscle contractions are often painful so it raises the question, “Is it exercise or the pain associated with exercise that leads to EIH?”.

In this study we investigate the pain reducing effect of muscle contractions alone (isometric knee extensions), painful conditioning stimuli alone (noxious electrical stimulation) and muscle contractions induced by electrical stimulation, that is painful. The results will provide insight into mechanisms of hypoalgesia associated with exercise and insight into possible exercise prescription to use when the goal of the exercise is pain relief.

If you are interested in learning more about the study please contact Dr. Rudolph ( or call Amanda Turner at (207) 221-4214.

Presentations from this work:

  1. Jacobsen E (DPT '19), Nelson T (DPT '19), Welsh C (DPT '19), Rudolph KS. Is it Exercise or the Pain Associated with Exercise that leads to Exercise Induced Hypoalgesia? Presented at the Maine Chapter APTA Winter Symposium and Annual Chapter Meeting: November 30, 2018

Completed Studies

Does a Neuromuscular Training Program Improve Mechanics during Landing and Cutting Maneuvers

Investigators: Casey Cottle (D.P.T.'16) and Sebastian Stoltfuz (D.P.T. '16)
Mentor: Michael Lawrence, M.S.
Funding: UNE 2014 IPEC Mini-Grant

Does Sensory Sensitivity affect Motor Learning — a Pilot Study?
Principal Investigator: Katherine Rudolph, Ph.D., P.T.
Student Researchers: Irina Fedulow (D.P.T.'15); Sarah Cooper (Biochemistry and Neuroscience ‘15)
Funding: UNE Minigrant #PRUD

Sled towing increases hip work generation in the sagittal and frontal planes more than wearing a weighted vest

Investigators: James Townsend (D.P.T. '15), Erin Collins (D.P.T. '15), Kaitlin Powers (D.P.T. '15)
Mentors: Erin Hartigan, Ph.D., P.T., A.T.C., O.C.S., Michael Lawrence, M.S.; Thomas Murray, M.D.; Bernadette Shaw, P.A.C.

Force Production and Muscle Activity during Sprint Start while Pulling a Weighted Sled

Investigators: Chad Lyons (AES ’15) 
Mentor: Michael Lawrence, M.S. 
Funding: NEACSM 2014 Undergraduate Research Experience Grant 

A Comparison of Knee Moments During a Lateral Cutting Maneuver: Shod vs. Barefoot

Investigators: Brianna Biesti (AT '12) and Casey Cottle (AES '12)
Mentors: Lara Carlson, DPE., F.A.C.S.M., C.S.C.S.. and Michael Lawrence, M.S.
Funding: 2012 NEACSM Undergraduate Research Experience Grant

Effects of a 6 Week Intervention Program on Lower Limb Joint Moment Asymmetry in Healthy Female Collegiate Athletes

Richard (Lee) Spencer (D.P.T. ’12), Alison St. Jeanos (D.P.T. ’12) and Michael Wynot (D.P.T. ’12)
Mentors: Erin Hartigan, Ph.D., P.T. and Michael Lawrence, M.S. 

Lower limb moments differ when towing a weighted sled with different attachment points 

Investigators: Brianna Biesti (A.T. '12) and Casey Cottle (A.E..S '12).
Mentors: Michael Lawrence, M.S., Lara Carlson, DPE., F.A.C.S.M., C.S.C.S.

Rate of Loading and Lower Extremity Sagittal Plane Biomechanics When Landing from a Drop-Jump: Shod and Barefoot Comparisons Between Genders

Robert Cochrane (D.P.T. ’12) and Brian McNeaney (D.P.T. ’12) 
Mentor: Michael Lawrence, M.S. and Erin Hartigan, Ph.D., P.T.

The Effect of Load on Movement Coordination During Sled Towing

Daniel Leib (D.P.T. ’12) and Cara Masterson (D.P.T. ’12)
Mentors: Michael Lawrence, M.S. and Erin Hartigan, Ph.D., P.T.

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