Osteopathic Manipulative Therapy (OMT)

Dr. Rutledge administers OMT to a patient.The approach of Healing Hands Osteopathic Medical Clinic is to incorporate the elements of Osteopathic Principles, Models and Practice to the fullest extent possible to promote total health by applying the techniques of Manual Medicine, and Dynamic Cranial treatments which have all developed within the framework of the Osteopathic Approach to health.

OMT is hands-on care which involves using hands to diagnose, treat, and prevent illness or injury. OMT offers the added dimension of using the hands to aid in both diagnosis and treatment. Osteopaths are trained to use their hands to evaluate tissue texture, asymmetry, range of motion, and temperature changes. In addition, the hands are used to detect fascial movements and the subtle movements of Primary Respiration (the ebb and flow of CSF fluid associated with a rhythmic motion throughout the body). The information gained through the hand provides several clues to aid in diagnosis. The hands are also used in various ways to affect treatment and also to monitor the body’s response to treatment.

What Disorders can OMT Potentially help?

Because osteopathy is a healthcare system rather than a modality, its uses and applications are varied. Generally, many patients initially seek osteopathic care for aches, pains, strains, sprains, headaches, and other common musculoskeletal problems. However, since there are numerous evaluation and manual treatment approaches, many health problems can be and have been successfully addressed with osteopathic manipulation. Studies have shown positive effects with the following conditions:

  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Autism
  • Bell's palsy
  • Degenerative disc and joint disease
  • Ear infections
  • Epilepsy
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Migraines
  • Pain
  • Pregnancy and childbirth
  • Reflux
  • Tendonitis
  • TMJ

Some of the benefits of treatment can include a noticeable increase in range of motion and restoration of function, the reduction of pain or painful spasm and an increase in the ability of the body to fight disease (i.e. stimulate the immune system). Patients have often reported a deep relaxation or restfulness during treatment while others may fall asleep. As in most forms of medical treatment, no specific results can be guaranteed.

The Goals of OMT

  • Relief of pain and the reduction of other symptoms
  • Removal of impediments to normal nerve transmission
  • Improvement of function (neural, lymphatic, respiratory, circulatory) and increased functional movement of muscles
  • Improved blood supply and delivery of nutrition
  • Restoration of adequate flow of fluids through lymphatic, venous, CNS circulatory systems

Using OMT, the osteopathic physician (D.O.) positions and facilitates the movement of muscles and joints using techniques that may incorporate stretching, gentle pressure, and resistance.

The Philosophy of OMT

Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment is a form of treatment based on the concept that the structure of the human body influences the function. The goal of Osteopathic treatment is to improve the body’s structure, and thereby enable the body to function at a higher level of health. Osteopathic philosophy also stresses holistic and preventive care.

What is the Treatment Approach of OMT?

The physician will ask questions; perform a physical examination, which includes the musculoskeletal system in order to detect any somatic dysfunction (abnormalities such as tenderness, asymmetry, restricted range of motion and abnormal changes in the muscles, joints, bones, connective tissue, etc.). The physician’s goal is to locate and then to reduce or resolve the somatic dysfunction.

Techniques range from a very light touch to more increased pressure. Some of the techniques of treatment include but are not limited to stretching, fascia release, localized isometric contractionrelaxation (“muscle energy”), positional or facilitative relaxation (“counterstrain” and “balanced ligamentous tension”) and gentle techniques to balance cranial motion (“cranial osteopathy”). Other recommendations may be given to help the dysfunction, such as diet, exercise, or stretching regimens.

What are the Potential Risks and Adverse Effects of OMT?

Patients rarely experience side effects as osteopathic manual medicine is considered one of the safest and most non-invasive forms of medical treatment. Most side effects occur from doctors or other practitioners who employ forceful types of manipulation, “cracking,” “popping” or other forceful high velocity type techniques, which are not typically utilized by our practice. Nevertheless, for purposes of disclosure, the following side effects have been reported from all forms of manual medicine:

  • Worse pain after treatment, numbness or weakness
  • Fractures (broken bones)
  • Spread of pre-existing conditions such as undetected cancer
  • Breaking loose of blood clots,
  • Stroke
  • Tears in blood vessels 

Although the above-listed complications are rare, patients should be made aware of the complications and some may be serious. Utilizing gentle techniques further reduces the occurrences of these rare complications. In more common cases, patients may experience mild muscle soreness, fatigue, or tenderness, similar to excessive sports activities or flu-like symptoms. This reaction to treatment usually resolves within a few days.

What are the Contraindications to OMT?

Vigorous types of manipulation (for example, thrust-type maneuvers or lymphatic pumps) should be generally avoided for certain conditions, such as Malignant Disease (e.g. bone cancer), bone or joint infection, or severe osteoporosis, as it could cause trauma to the bone or internal organs.

Otherwise, almost any person can potentially benefit from osteopathic evaluation and treatment.