New approach to declining lung function as we age: participants needed

Published 7 November 2016

Anyone over the age of 50 recognises the signs of ageing: increasing joint stiffness, decreasing muscle strength, deteriorating eyesight or declining lung function. Researchers from Southern Cross University and Macquarie University are investigating a new way to prevent age-related declining lung function.

The trial, known as the Manual therapy, Exercise and Lung function Trial (MELT), starts in Lismore today (November 7). Researchers are seeking to recruit 300 healthy non-smokers between the ages of 50 and 65.

MELT will explore a new approach that relies on the link between chest wall stiffness and lung function. Two interventions - osteopathic manual therapy and exercise – will be combined to increase the flexibility of the chest wall, thereby increasing lung function. Both interventions will be provided by students enrolled in degrees at Southern Cross University.

Associate Professor Sandra Grace and Dr Suzanne Broadbent from the School of Health and Human Sciences, at Southern Cross University, and Dr Roger Engel, from the Department of Chiropractic at Macquarie University, are the chief investigators on this trial.

“Manual therapy has been shown to reduce stiffness in the spine and make the chest more flexible. The main aim of this study is to investigate whether increasing chest wall flexibility through manual therapy can lead to improvements in lung function,” said Professor Grace.

“We will investigate the effectiveness of different forms of manual therapy and whether the improvements are ongoing.”

Results from previous studies have shown this approach is capable of increasing lung function over the medium term in people with chronic respiratory disease. The researchers believe the same approach may also be capable of improving lung function in people who do not have respiratory disease.

“The exciting aspect of this research is that it has the potential to keep people healthy for longer, something that has implications for both the quality of life as people age and the increasing cost of healthcare associated with ageing,” Dr Engel said.

Participation in the trial involves eight visits over a nine week period, with all sessions provided free of charge. All participants will receive six exercise sessions, while two-thirds of the participants will also receive six osteopathic treatments.

Criteria for participation in the trial:
• 50 to 65 years of age
• Healthy, with no history of respiratory disease
• Currently non-smoking (for preceding six months)
• Able to walk unaided and unassisted

If you would like further information about the trial or would like to enrol, contact:

Phone: 0468 920 462

This research project has obtained approval by the Human Research Ethics Committee of Southern Cross University (approval number: ECN-16-11).
Photo: Associate Professor Sandra Grace (left) and Dr Roger Engel (right) with MELT participant Heather Hill and osteopathy student Brett Robinson. High resolution images available on request.

Media contact: Sharlene King media officer, Southern Cross University, 02 6620 3508 or 0429 661 349.