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Despite the rapidly-increasing widespread adoption of percussive therapy as a tool for pain management by individual consumers and health professionals alike, relatively little experimental research has been done to clarify the neural mechanisms implicated in the many anecdotal stories of pain reduction. Inspired by an evidence-based theory of pain perception, according to which the brain’s anterior cingulate cortex processes both physically and emotionally painful inputs, it was hypothesized that the application of a physical stimulus—percussive therapy—would decrease socially-induced pain more readily than a vibration-removed control. Six conditions spread over three phases of testing were designed to specifically isolate the effect of vibration from other confounds, should such an effect exist. Instead, exploratory analyses revealed that participants in the pain induction conditions who received percussive therapy with or without vibration both reported significantly reduced pain. The mechanisms within percussive therapy beyond vibration that may have contributed to this finding, including touch and other social and cognitive factors, are discussed at length herein.
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Luscher, Alex, "Toward a Better Understanding of Percussive Therapy and Pain" (2021). Senior Projects Fall 2021. 36.
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