Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine is helping a lot of people. It’s an approach used by doctors of osteopathic medicine that is similar to chiropractic patient care. Although there are similarities, they are considered to be two completely different treatment methods.
The American Osteopathic Association defines an osteopathic manipulative treatment (or OMT) as a hands-on approach, used by osteopathic physicians, to diagnose, treat and prevent illness or injury. Osteopathic physicians are trained to understand how your musculoskeletal system is connected. Your physician will move your muscles and joints using techniques that include stretching, gentle pressure and resistance.
Ohio Medical Group/North Ohio Heart Physician Edward Craft, DO, uses osteopathic manipulation with some of his patients. We asked more about how it may help you.
Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine versus Chiropractic Care
“Everything in the body is connected by what we call fascial planes,” Dr. Craft says. “I can poke on you in some place, say your hip, and you say ‘ow, my head hurts.’ What you're describing is a trigger point.”
Osteopathic medicine relies on an understanding of how the body’s intricate system of muscles, nerves and bones work together. Since there are a variety of techniques, some being very gentle in nature, manipulation is generally beneficial on some level for every patient.
One of the most common and well-known therapeutic procedures performed by chiropractic doctors is spinal manipulation (sometimes referred to as a "chiropractic adjustment"). The purpose of spinal manipulation is to restore joint mobility by manually applying a controlled force. In layman’s terms, your chiropractor will “crack your back,” but there’s much more to it than that.
If you need a chiropractic adjustment, your joints are restricted in their movement as a result of a tissue injury. Chiropractic adjustment rarely causes discomfort, however, you may sometimes experience mild soreness or aching following treatment.
When comparing the two treatment methods, osteopaths tend to treat a broader range of disorders, while most chiropractors focus on muscle and joint pain. They may do more muscle and soft tissue work or manipulate other joints in the body. Chiropractors mainly focus on adjustments to the vertebrae of the spine.
Before Your OMT Appointment
Just like your primary care physician, the doctor performing you osteopathic manipulative treatment will ask you about your medical history. He or she will want to know things like:
- If you’ve had any recent illnesses or surgery
- If you have or had a fracture, surgery, or cancer in your spine, ribs, or the bones in your arms or shoulders
- Have osteoporosis
- Think you may be pregnant
During your exam, your doctor will check your spine, posture and balance. They will also feel your joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments.
After reviewing the results, your doctor will discuss the cause of your symptoms and whether you may benefit from OMT. If they think you may benefit, you can make an appointment for an OMT session.
Dr. Craft says if your diagnosis leads you down a different path where osteopathic manipulation doesn’t provide relief, your D.O. will point you in the right direction.
“If there's something that I can't take care of, we point you in the right direction to either one of the sports guys or orthopedic guys,” Dr. Craft says.
Benefits of Osteopathic Manipulative Treatments
There are many benefits to osteopathic manipulative treatments. They include:
- Treatment of structural and soft tissue abnormalities
- Relieving joint restriction and misalignment
- Restoring muscle and connective-tissue balance
- Promoting the overall movement of blood flow throughout the body
One of the biggest benefits you’ll experience from an OMT treatment is reduced pain, along with better joint and muscle movement. By realigning your musculoskeletal system (your muscles, skeleton, and the connective tissue that supports your organs and tissues), you’ll become more balanced. This will not only promote healing, but it will also help you prevent more injury to your musculoskeletal system.
What Does Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine Treat?
OMT can be used to treat conditions such as:
- Chronic back, neck, and shoulder pain
- Neuromuscular pain syndromes (syndromes that affect your muscles or nerves, such as neuropathy or myopathy)
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Migraines and tension headaches
- Sinus disorders
- Middle ear infections
Clinical studies show osteopathic manipulative treatments to be very effective in treating lower back pain. Preliminary results in another study found it can also relieve pain in postpartum women. It’s been shown to reduce hospital stays for people with pneumonia, and it can also be used as a complement to medication and other therapies.
“Sometimes there's a good explanation, sometimes there's not,” Dr. Craft says. “But at least we can try and work and fix the problem so it doesn't hurt anymore.”
Manipulative therapy is a great addition to almost any healthcare plan. Understanding the structure and function of different body parts is an important part of maintaining health. If you’d like to get started, make an appointment to talk to your doctor.
Or if you’d like a little more information on choosing a doctor that is right for you, our guide may help.