For some DOs, using their hands to diagnose illness or treat an injury is a key component of caring for patients. Finding the evidence-based proof on the impact of osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) in patient care is one of the AOA’s research priorities to help demonstrate the value of DOs’ unique approach to patient care.
Over the past decade, the research base demonstrating the efficacy of OMT has continued to grow, with studies showing the benefits of OMT for low back pain, balance and pneumonia. And recently, The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association (JAOA) highlighted some of that research in a special issue on OMT.
OMT and low back pain
The JAOA’s OMT research issue featured two studies on low back pain reported from the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth. The studies covered the use of OMT to reduce pain and to improve patients’ functionality.
The initial study measured whether OMT aided in recovery. The second study looked at patients who most benefited from the treatments. Patients with baseline disability scores of 17 or greater on a scale of 24 experienced significant improvement while those with initial scores of 7 or greater experienced moderate improvement. These results led researchers to suggest patients try OMT before resorting to surgery.
OMT for balance, pneumonia
Although OMT is frequently cited as a treatment option for patients with low back pain, studies have also shown that it can benefit other patients, such as those with pneumonia or those at risk of falling.
- The Multicenter Osteopathic Pneumonia Study in the Elderly clinical trial examined 306 subjects 50 years of age or older who were hospitalized with community-acquired pneumonia. Results showed a one-day reduction in the length of hospital stay in patients who received OMT in addition to standard medical care when compared to patients who received only conventional medical care, according to a statement from the Osteopathic Research Center.
- A pilot study examining the effect of OMT on balance in 40 elderly patients found those in the OMT group had significantly improved postural stability compared to the control group.
Call for research
Looking toward the future, Michael A. Seffinger, DO, a JAOA associate editor, envisions OMT research focusing on the molecular-level effects of OMT in the clinical setting.
“These studies will identify the mechanisms as well as the efficacy of OMT and the patient response to OMT over time,” Dr. Seffinger says.
To help researchers advance OMT research, the AOA recently accepted requests for applications for research funding for projects that have the potential to impact patient care.
Opportunities for osteopathic manipulative medicine research funding included examining OMT’s effect on inflammation and the impact of the osteopathic approach on various aspects of Parkinson’s disease, including gait, tremors and medication use.