Hands-on Data Acquisition & Analysis (HODA-A)

HODA-A: a term that describes the mechanisms at play when a practitioner of manual therapy actively touches a person (active touch) to obtain information about their musculoskeletal health - Jo Abbott

Touch is our oldest most primitive and pervasive sense and plays an integral role in biological, cognitive, and social development.  In utero, touch receptors – the first sense to develop and respond to stimuli – begin to develop at 24 days, by 52 days the fingers have developed and tactile pads are present.  In general, touch is the first sense we experience in the womb and the last one we lose before death. When the hands are fully developed the fingertips contain an estimated at 25,000 nerve receptors per square cm – some of the densest areas of nerve endings on the body.  Established in ancient history, physically touching a person with the aim to comfort, heal, or soothe physical or emotional pain is common to all civilisations for 30,000 years.

During active touch, sensory receptors and sensory organs are components of the nervous system that allow us to participate and respond to the world around us, whilst keeping us informed of changes in our external environment (somatic), and any fluctuations in our internal environment (autonomic).  The sensory nerves (afferent) serve as communication lines, transmitting messages to the brain and spinal cord, the main control centres of the body.  The brain interprets and evaluates the messages, transmitting the outcome decisions through the motor nerves (efferent) to the appropriate muscles or glands which carry out the appropriate response.

In summary, when a person actively touches an object, information is provided about the object. There are two distinct mechanisms to active touch perception: hands-on data acquisition, and analysis (HODA-A). It is important not to separate the two levels required for touch perception because one does not happen without the other.

EXTRACT FROM: Jo Abbott Ph.D. Thesis

Measurement instruments are essential in scientific research and in clinical practice.

Before a measurement instrument can be used its measurement properties, i.e. validity, reliability, and responsiveness, should be assessed and considered adequate.  Although validity and reliability are used inter-changeably in the literature, they are not synonymous.  Validity is the accuracy of a measurement, where the data collected depends on the content validity of the measurement instrument.  Reliability is any measurement instrument that is robust enough to produce consistent or reproducibility outcomes of a measure at different times.

Therefore, validity must be assessed first.

Continuing to conduct reliability studies on HODA-A without the necessary validity study is a major source of bias, unethical, constitutes a waste of resources, and ultimately is the antithesis of science.

#don't wait to break

Some of the feedback so far...

Trish Gibson


"Finally research that resonates with how we actually practice as manual therapists; that takes in all the nuances of what we do beyond just taking in information from our mechanoreceptors. I'm very excited to see where this leads; what research stems from this, how it evolves our teaching methods and how it changes the landscape of rehabilitation." 

Doreen Killens


"Finally, a study that makes senses of what I feel logically and intuitively when I put my hands on my patients as I try to sort out their issues. I am blown away !"

Lasse Liikanen


"HODA-A is giving musculoskeletal healthcare professionals a clear framework explaining what happens during active touch; something that science has failed to do before."

Dr Gert Petrus Visser


"The importance of valid and reliable manual assessments in evaluating and treatment to achieve a stable jaw (TMJ) and normal oromyofacial function such as swallowing and breathing are fundamental in helping a huge variety of patients suffering with various dysfunctions, disabilities and chronic pain."

Christopher Chi Ngai Lo


"The idea of this research project impressed me such at the very beginning because the accuracy and validity of palpation are the keystones of manual therapy. Our professional education is waiting for a quantifiable standard on palpation as well as other physical tests. This research project will make a new page on the development of training and clinical practice and out profession."  

Charles Hazle, PT, PhD


"Jo's research is remarkable in that it explores dimensions of manual therapy that practitioners have pondered and discussed for decades, but not actually identified or quantified. I suspect her results will be a noteworthy addition to how manual therapy is conceptualised and taught in the future - perhaps across disciplines." 

Rachael Dickinson


"After listening to Jo's presentation, I am more focused on trying to critically evaluate my own practical assessment techniques in an attempt to add validity and reliability to my findings, and therefore improve the quality of service I offer to my clients."

Jay Cunningham


"Finally, with HODA-A, a framework and language to describe a gold standard for hands on clinical assessment that challenges the simplification of hands-on practice previously assumed in research, and presents great opportunity to positively impact future education, especially in nurturing new and returning practitioners within and across professions - let the fun begin!"