I had my Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT) on Friday. I was in the middle of a flare, so I almost chickened out and cancelled my appointment. The only thing that kept me from doing that was fear that such a late cancellation might keep me from getting another appointment.
I’m extremely fortunate that my Primary Care Provider (PCP) is a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO). That means that not only can she practice traditional medicine, she has an additional skill set that is more holistic.
So what’s the difference between a regular doctor and a doctor who practices osteopathic medicine? First, let’s take a look at what we mean when we talk about osteopathic medicine.
What is osteopathic medicine?
Osteopathic medicine looks at many more factors than just the symptoms you present with. It encompasses looking at the whole person. Wow – what a concept, huh?
According to the Academy of Osteopathy,
“Osteopathic medicine is a patient-focused approach to health care that takes into account every aspect of the patient, including his or her physical, personal, and spiritual well-being. Developed more than 130 years ago by Andrew Taylor Still, MD, DO, osteopathic medicine brings a unique philosophy to traditional patient care. Understanding that the body is more than just a sum of its parts, osteopathic physicians (DOs) assist the patient’s innate capacity to heal by addressing the interrelationship of the body’s nerves, muscles, bones and organs. Osteopathic physicians are licensed to prescribe medicine and practice in all medical and surgical specialties and subspecialties.” https://www.academyofosteopathy.org/what-is-osteopathy
In his outstanding article, An Osteopathic Approach to Fibromyalgia, Michael A. Seffinger, DO, FAAFP, adds that
“The osteopathic philosophy is founded on core beliefs about health, disease and patient care that can be summarized in four basic tenets that stem from the sciences of anatomy and physiology:1,2
- The human being is a dynamic unit of function.
- The body possesses self-regulatory mechanisms that are self-healing in nature.
- Structure and function are interrelated at all levels.
- Rational treatment is based on these principles.”
The doctor who practices osteopathic medicine addresses the whole person, not just the symptoms of a problem, and works with the body to help it heal itself.
This makes so much sense to me, just at a common-sense level. We know none of our body’s systems work independently of everything else, so why should they be treated as if they operate in a vacuum?
OMT is one of the tools a DO can use to address all those interrelated systems. That’s what makes it so attractive to me for treating the symptoms of Fibromyalgia. If my doctor is addressing imbalances that affect, as the Academy of Osteopathy says above, “the interrelationship of the body’s nerves, muscles, bones and organs,” it seems treatment may improve many of the co-morbid conditions that accompany Fibromyalgia.
So what is Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment?
According to the American Osteopathic Association,
“Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment, or OMT, is a set of hands-on techniques used by osteopathic physicians (DOs) to diagnose, treat, and prevent illness or injury. Using OMT, a DO moves a patient’s muscles and joints using techniques that include stretching, gentle pressure and resistance.”
My treatments consist of all these techniques. When I go in, my doctor asks what I feel I need the most work on for that day. She knows that if we do too much, it could result in a flare, so she’s conservative with how much we do. For instance, on Friday, we worked on my legs because they were what were giving me the most pain. The time before, we concentrated on my hips.
Before she does anything, though, she does a hands-on assessment to see what imbalances I have. That’s what informs the treatment she provides that particular day. Because the Musculoskeletal System affects other bodily systems, addressing those issues can result in benefits to overall health.
To see just how the Musculoskeletal System interacts with the other systems of the body, I highly recommend reading An Osteopathic Approach to Fibromyalgia. Dr. Seffinger does a fabulous job of describing how all these systems are interconnected.
How It May Help:
Osteopathic Manipulative Therapy techniques can help in several ways. These benefits are not unique to Fibromyalgia – they can apply to other issues as well. The American Osteopathic Association outlines the following ways OMT may help: It can “treat structural and tissue abnormalities, relieve joint restriction and misalignment, restore muscle and tissue balance, [and] promote the overall movement of blood flow throughout the body.”
In researching specifically the connection between OMT and Fibromyalgia, the article by Dr. Seffinger that I mentioned above was the most comprehensive one I found. It details how and why OMT can be helpful for Fibromyalgia, and even provides a case study. It’s a little lengthy but well worth the read.
I couldn’t find information about many studies conducted regarding how helpful OMT is for Fibromyalgia, though I did find mention of a small one. You can read about it here. According to the National Institutes of Health, the small study referenced “found OMT combined with standard medical care was more efficacious in treating FM than standard care alone.”
As with everything else, what works for one person might not work for another. For some, the discomfort of the “stretching, gentle pressure and resistance” mentioned above might be too much.
I will tell you that it’s definitely not comfortable while you’re doing it (at least it isn’t for me), and I usually experience a couple of days of a sort of ‘mini flare’ afterward. However, in the past I’ve had excellent relief over the long run so it’s worth the temporary discomfort for me.
Is Osteopathic Manipulative Therapy helpful for Fibromyalgia? The short answer – Maybe. Each person is different and responds differently to treatment protocols.
Have you ever tried Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment? If so, how was your experience with it? Did you find it helpful? Please share!
What Is Osteopathic Medicine? https://www.academyofosteopathy.org/what-is-osteopathy
What Is Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment? https://osteopathic.org/what-is-osteopathic-medicine/osteopathic-manipulative-treatment/
An Osteopathic Approach to Fibromyalgia, Michael A. Seffinger, DO, FAAFP https://www.practicalpainmanagement.com/pain/myofascial/fibromyalgia/osteopathic-approach-fibromyalgia
Osteopathic manipulative treatment in conjunction with medication relieves pain associated with fibromyalgia syndrome: results of a randomized clinical pilot project. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12090649