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Front. Integr. Neurosci. | doi: 10.3389/fnint.2018.00041

The immediate effect of therapeutic touch and deep touch pressure on range of motion, interoceptive accuracy and heart rate variability: A randomised controlled trial

 Darren J. Edwards1, 2*, Hayley Young2, 3 and Ross Johnston2
  • 1Department of Interprofessional Health Studies, Swansea University, United Kingdom
  • 2Osteopathy, Swansea University, United Kingdom
  • 3Swansea University, United Kingdom

Background. There is paucity in the literature regarding the role of the interoceptive pathway through the insular cortex (IC), as well as heart rate variability (HRV) in relation to Osteopathic Manipulative Therapy (OMT) and deep-touch. Aims. The present study investigated whether both OMT treatment and deep-touch (a newly hypothesised treatment option) was effective at altering the interoceptive pathway and heart rate variability (HRV), whilst OMT was only expected to be effective for increasing Range of Motion (ROM). Method. Thirty-five healthy volunteers were randomly allocated into three conditions in a repeated measures crossover design; a control (laying supine on a plinth); deep-touch (head cradling); and an osteopathic mobilisation therapeutic technique on the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). Interoceptive accuracy (IAc), HRV, as well as range of motion (ROM) for the TMJ area as well as the cervical spine (Csp) right and left measures were taken pre and post each condition setting. Results. Significant condition effects emerged from the deep-touch and mobilisation interventions for IAc where increases were identified through planned comparisons. For the HRV measure (RMSSD), a significant effect emerged in the deep-touch condition (increase) but not in the mobilisation or control conditions. ROM did not increase for any condition. IAc correlated with post-ROM outcomes in many cases and HRV moderated some of these relations. Conclusions. These results are discussed in the context of clinical practice, where cranial deep-touch maybe an effective treatment and modulator of the parasympathetic nervous systems, as well as the interoceptive system.

Keywords: Touch, interoception, Osteopathy, heart rate variability (HRV), Mental Health

Received: 21 May 2018; Accepted: 06 Sep 2018.

Edited by:

Elizabeth B. Torres, Rutgers University, The State University of New Jersey, United States

Reviewed by:

Luca Carnevali, Università degli Studi di Parma, Italy
DeWayne P. Williams, The Ohio State University, United States  

Copyright: © 2018 Edwards, Young and Johnston. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Darren J. Edwards, Swansea University, Department of Interprofessional Health Studies, Swansea, United Kingdom,