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Applying an osteopathic intervention to improve mild to moderate mental health symptoms: a mixed-methods feasibility study protocol


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Cranial and Pediatric

BMJ Open.2023 Jun 27;13(6):e071680


Josh Hope-Bell, Jerry Draper-Rodi, Darren J Edwards


Introduction: Mental health services are stretched in the UK and are in need of support. One approach that could improve mental health symptoms is osteopathy. Research suggests that osteopathy influences psychophysiological factors, which could lead to improvements in mental health. The first objective of this protocol is to investigate the feasibility and acceptability of four osteopathic interventions. A secondary aim is to evaluate the interventions' effectiveness for improving psychophysiological and mental health outcomes. Methods and analysis: This study will be an explanatory mixed-methods design. Participants will be 30 adults who have mild to moderate mental health symptoms and not experiencing any issues with pain. The feasibility and acceptability of the interventions will be the primary outcomes. Secondary outcomes will be physiological measures including heart rate variability, interoceptive accuracy and blood pressure. Psychological outcomes, collected preintervention and postintervention, will also be measured by five standardised questionnaires, which include: (1) the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS); (2) the International Positive and Negative Affect Schedule-Short-Form; (3) Acceptance and Action Questionnaire-II; (4) the Self as Context Scale and (5) and the Multidimensional Assessment of Interoceptive Awareness Version 2. Participants will be randomised to one of four intervention groups and receive a single intervention treatment session. These intervention groups are: (1) high-velocity and articulation techniques, (2) soft-tissue massage, (3) craniosacral techniques, and (4) a combination of these three approaches. Mixed design two (preintervention and postintervention) by the four interventions analysis of covariance models will be used to analyse the quantitative data for each quantitative measure. Participants will also be interviewed about their experiences of the study and interventions and a thematic analysis will be used to analyse this qualitative data. This will aid the assessment of the feasibility and acceptability of the study design. Ethics and dissemination: The protocol for this feasibility study has received ethical approval from the Department of Psychology Ethics Committee at Swansea University, ethical review reference number: 2022-5603-4810. Feasibility results from this protocol will be published in a peer review journal and presented at both national and international conferences. Discussion: This study will assess the feasibility and acceptability of conducting osteopathic interventions for improving mental health outcomes. The results from this will help to inform the development of a future randomised controlled trial. The study will also produce original data which could provide preliminary evidence of whether osteopathic approaches are of benefit to individual's mental health in the form of effect sizes, even if they are pain-free.

Publication Date: 

2023 Jun



Hope-bell, J., Draper-rodi, J., Edwards, JD. (2023) 'Applying an osteopathic intervention to improve mild to moderate mental health symptoms: a mixed-methods feasibility study protocol', BMJ Open.2023 Jun 27;13(6):e071680

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