Does the osteopathic pedal pump reduce lower limb volume in healthy subjects?

Jill S. Adams, BS; Sahil H. Parikh, BS; Brandon J. Goodwin, BA; and Donald R. Noll, DO, FACOI
Notes and Affiliations
Notes and Affiliations

Received: June 21, 2022

Accepted: October 17, 2022

Published: January 27, 2023

  • Jill S. Adams, BS, 

    Rowan-Virtua School of Osteopathic Medicine, Stratford, NJ, USA

  • Sahil H. Parikh, BS, 

    Rowan-Virtua School of Osteopathic Medicine, Stratford, NJ, USA

  • Brandon J. Goodwin, BA, 

    Rowan-Virtua School of Osteopathic Medicine, Stratford, NJ, USA

  • Donald R. Noll, DO, FACOI, 

    Department of Geriatrics and Gerontology, Rowan-Virtua School of Osteopathic Medicine, New Jersey Institute for Successful Aging, Stratford, NJ, USA

J Osteopath Med; 123(4): 201-206

Context: Lymphatic treatments are gentle and passive techniques believed to enhance movement of lymph back into the central circulatory system. Animal studies provide supportive evidence, yet there are few studies in humans.

Objectives: The aim of this study is to investigate whether the osteopathic pedal pump protocol reduces volume in the lower limbs of healthy subjects.

Methods: A total of 30 first- and second-year medical students were recruited. Subjects were excluded from participating if they had acute asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), congestive heart failure, active infections, fractures of the lower extremities, or metastatic cancer. A within-subjects study design with pre- and posttreatment measurement of lower limb volume was utilized. Pretreatment lower limb volume measurements were obtained utilizing a volumetric water gauge prior to myofascial thoracic inlet release and a 5 min pedal lymphatic pump protocol treatment. Posttreatment lower limb measurements were taken immediately following the protocol treatment. A telephone interview was conducted 2–3 days after the treatment to assess the participants’ experience of the treatment and whether the treatment elicited a subjective change from baseline. A paired t test was utilized to determine the statistical significance of volume displacement posttreatment.

Results: The mean change of pretreatment to posttreatment lower limb volume was −45.63 mL with a standard deviation of 37.65 mL. The change between the pretreatment and posttreatment volume measurements was statistically significant (p<0.001). The minimum displacement was +19 mL, and the maximum displacement was −167 mL. The majority of participants perceived the treatment as effective and enjoyable, were likely to recommend it to others, and were willing to have it performed on them at routine office visits if there was a need.

Conclusions: The osteopathic pedal pump technique, when utilized on those without leg lymphedema, reduces lower limb volume as measured by the volumetric water gauge. Further studies are warranted, especially in persons with excess lower-extremity edema, lymphedema or venous stasis.

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