If you are suffering from musculoskeletal injuries, experiencing pain, or need to improve your flexibility or reduce inflammation, you may have considered many different treatment options. But one option you may not be as familiar with is osteopathic manipulation treatment (OMT).
OMT is part of osteopathic medicine, which was created in the late 1800s by Andrew Taylor Still, MD. He became disillusioned with traditional medical practices after losing family members to meningitis, and he studied the body’s ability to heal itself. Osteopathic medicine is focused on body, mind and spirit.
For OMT, it is best to visit an osteopathic physician (DO) who specializes in performing this type of therapy. “They are trained to evaluate mind, body and spirit. They know how injury or repetitive trauma can affect your body and your ability to heal,” said Leigh Anne Costanzo, DO, a family medicine provider at Banner Health Center in Mesa.
With an understanding of how the body’s structure and function are intertwined, an osteopathic physician works to solve problems with your structure in order to restore function.
Their focus on whole-person health care extends to healthy habits, physical fitness and emotional well-being.
How does osteopathic manipulation treatment work?
OMT is a hands-on type of treatment. Osteopathic physicians use their eyes and hands to diagnose and treat problems with the body’s framework. They help align and balance your bones and muscles so your body can heal. They also tap into the strength of your body’s lymphatic system to reduce swelling.
There are 25 different therapies that are part of OMT. They include:
- Counterstrain, which gently shortens the places in your body that are causing pain to help them relax
- Myofascial release, which uses gentle pressure to help alleviate muscle tightness or pain
- Effleurage, a massage technique with long, light strokes that can help you relax and reduce stress
- The Still technique, which takes your joint through the full range of motion to help tissues relax
- Muscle energy or inhibition, where you use your muscles against a counterforce to help improve range of motion
- High-velocity, low-amplitude movements, or movements that use force for a short time or distance to help realign body parts
During a treatment session, your doctor might have you stand, sit or lie down while they touch your muscles and move your limbs. Your exact treatment plan will depend on the condition you’re treating and your overall health.
Who could benefit from osteopathic manipulation?
Almost anyone with an acute or chronic condition could benefit from OMT, and it’s safe for people of all ages. It’s often used for lower back pain, but it can also help treat other types of pain, sleep problems, digestive issues, breathing problems, sports injuries and other conditions.
A few groups of people should be cautious about using OMT: People with cancer, fractures, recent surgical procedures or skin injuries. If you have any of these conditions, talk to your osteopathic physician about them before you have any treatment.
How does OMT differ from other treatments?
OMT is similar to physical therapy since it mainly treats musculoskeletal conditions, but it also addresses tension and tightness in your body’s fascia, which is a type of connective tissue. And it helps drain your lymphatic system to improve circulation.
Like chiropractic care, it can use fast, brief forces. But chiropractic care focuses on those types of movements, while OMT usually assesses and treats problems with the muscles and fascia first.
Unlike surgery, OMT is noninvasive. It uses your own body to heal itself.
You can use OMT on its own or with other treatments such as acupuncture, massage and chiropractic care.
The bottom line
Osteopathic manipulation therapy could be a good choice if you have a musculoskeletal injury or pain, reduced flexibility, or inflammation. If you would like to connect with an osteopathic physician who can help you heal, reach out to Banner Health.