Osteopathic manipulative treatment

Osteopathic manipulative treatment was developed by Dr. Andrew Still, the father of osteopathic medicine. Dr. Still believed that the diseases of the body could be detected through changes in the surface of the human body and these diseases could be treated by manual manipulation of the body. These manual manipulations are the basis of osteopathic manipulative treatment, or OMT. Osteopathic physicians believe OMT can be used to treat a variety of illnesses and injuries, and they use their hands to move, stretch and apply pressure to the muscles and joints of the body, with the dual purpose of diagnosing and treating a range of medical diseases. OMT practitioners also believe that the treatment can relieve pain, as well as increase a person’s range of motion and encourage healing.

Although osteopathic manipulative treatment is usually used to diagnose and treat muscle pain, it also has been used to help patients cope with a variety of conditions, such as asthma, headaches, migraines, joint problems, sinusitis and menstrual pain. OMT also may be appropriate in cases of chronic neck or back pain caused by the weakening of the spinal column — such as the wear and tear associated with a condition commonly known as degenerative disc disease. In these cases, the OMT practitioner aims to use hands-on care to restore the spine to its normal function. There are several techniques that the practitioner might use to achieve the desired results, with one common method being to apply gentle manual pressure to affected areas of the spine.

Degenerative disc disease can affect the spine in several ways. Located between our spine’s vertebrae are discs that consist of a tough outer layer called the annulus fibrosus that surrounds a soft, spongy jellylike interior called the nucleus pulposus. Together, discs behave as shock absorbers for the spinal column, helping us withstand the daily stresses we place on our necks and backs. However, as we age, the cushioning discs lose their fluid content and elasticity, making them weak and susceptible to injury or disease. If the annulus fibrosus tears or ruptures, the nucleus can extrude into the area surrounding the disc. The extruded material may pinch nerve roots, placing pressure upon them and consequently causing neck or back pain. A bulging or herniated disc may also generate local or radiating pain, numbness, tingling and muscle weakness in the limbs. The symptoms of degenerative disc disease can worsen as the spinal discs lose shape or flatten. Disc flattening allows the vertebrae to move closer together, causing more pressure on spinal nerves as they reside between vertebrae.

With all of these issues, OMT can be beneficial as a pain management tool. It also may improve range of motion and flexibility. Manipulation treatments can include:

  • Neuromuscular therapy
  • Visceral manipulation
  • Counterstrain
  • Soft tissue techniques
  • Balanced ligamentous tension
  • Joint mobilization

If you are experiencing chronic neck or back pain, consult with your health care provider. He or she can diagnose the cause of your discomfort and create a conservative, nonsurgical treatment plan. Mention to your physician the option of OMT. He/she may refer you to an osteopathic physician, who, after meeting with you, might prescribe osteopathic manipulative treatment.

Sometimes, patients require more than osteopathic manipulative treatment to regain their mobility. If OMT and other conservative treatments have done little to ease your neck or back pain and your physician recommends surgery, consider minimally invasive spine surgery from Laser Spine Institute. We offer minimally invasive decompression and stabilization procedures that have successfully addressed a range of neck and back conditions, including degenerative disc disease. Contact us today to learn more about our state-of-the-art procedures and find out how to receive a review of your MRI report.