Category: Physical Therapy

Illustration shows a person with their hands behind their back holding their back in pain with a red circle showing the pain radiating.
The University of Delaware’s Gregory Hicks recently led a clinical trial to test new ways of treating chronic low back pain in adults 60 to 85 years old.

Hip-focused physical therapy reduces low back pain

December 19, 2023 Written by Tracey Bryant | Illustration by Jeffrey C. Chase

UD-led clinical trial focuses on older adults

When the University of Delaware’s Gregory Hicks started his research career two decades ago, he was one of only a few people in the United States studying chronic low back pain in people over 60 years old.

Fast-forward to today, the research on back pain has ramped up, yet studies of older adults with the problem are still sparse.

“Unfortunately, the societal attitude is that older people don’t warrant the same level of care that younger people do when it comes to musculoskeletal problems,” said Hicks, Distinguished Professor of Health Sciences at UD. “But I don’t believe that for a minute.”

Hicks, a research champion aiming to improve the health of older adults, “has their back” in more ways than one.

“I’ve always loved working with this age group,” he said. “Just as there are health disparities due to race and ethnicity, being older leads to under-treatment of pain. Older people are told there’s really nothing we can do about it, but that’s simply not true.”

With support from the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health, Hicks recently led a clinical trial with researchers at UD, Duke University and the University of Pittsburgh to test new ways of treating chronic low back pain in adults 60 to 85 years old. 

The study, called the Manual Therapy and Strengthening the Hip (MASH) Trial, is believed by the research team to be the first clinical trial to assess the efficacy of a tailored physical therapy intervention matched to an at-risk subgroup of older adults with chronic low back pain and coexisting hip pain and muscle weakness. 


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