Patient voices

Following years of pain, former US ambassador finds relief through OMT

“I’m prepared to tell anyone, anywhere, anytime how incredibly OMT worked for me,” says Kenneth M. Quinn, PhD.


Kenneth M. Quinn, PhD, has worked all over the world. The former U.S. ambassador to Cambodia, Dr. Quinn worked for the U.S. State Department for three decades and now runs the World Food Prize Foundation, an organization that recognizes global efforts to eradicate hunger, in Des Moines, Iowa.

Des Moines is an important place in Dr. Quinn’s life for another reason: It’s where he first sought osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) from a DO to address the debilitating back pain he’d endured for years. Nearly 30 years later, Dr. Quinn remains unequivocal about the experience: “I’m prepared to tell anyone, anywhere, anytime how incredibly OMT worked for me,” he says. In this edited account, Dr. Quinn does exactly that.

How did your back pain begin?

Kenneth M. Quinn, PhD

In the early 1970s, when I was part of a State Department advisory team in a remote area of Vietnam, I had a terrible spasm in my lower back. I can still recall the bolt of blue lightning that shot through my brain and knocked me off my feet. The slightest movement gave me incredible spasms of pain. I’d had low back problems before, but never anything like this. I lay there alone for several hours until I was discovered by my team members. Using a door as a stretcher, they loaded me into a helicopter bound for a hospital in Saigon.

The doctors there weren’t able to pinpoint what had caused the spasm, but eventually my muscles loosened up and the pain subsided enough that I could get around. However, the episode left me debilitated and in constant distress and pain.

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When did you seek out a DO for treatment?

Several years later, in 1978, I was working for the Iowa governor, Robert Ray, in Des Moines on another State Department assignment. I had an onset of pain that was so bad I couldn’t go to work. I visited specialists, surgeons, a massage therapist and an acupuncturist, but my pain persisted. Finally, one of my colleagues urged me to seek treatment from an osteopathic physician at what is now the Des Moines University College of Osteopathic Medicine.

I limped in to my appointment with my head and body tilted to the left because it was too painful for me to straighten up. My physician, Bernard TePoorten, DO, took my history and then performed OMT on me. After I climbed gingerly off the OMT table, still bent sideways, Dr. TePoorten told me to try standing up straight. Slowly, I moved my head and shoulders until they were upright. I was shocked to discover that I was completely pain-free. Dr. TePoorten had done what no other physician, surgeon or specialist was able to do for me.

How have you managed your condition since?

In the years after that first appointment, I had numerous recurrences of low back pain, but I was always able to find a DO who could treat me using OMT. My DO physicians have also given me tips on how to manage my condition. They advised me that staying at a healthy weight is important and taught me how to relieve lower back strain by lying on the floor with bent knees. Walking also helps ease the discomfort.

For people who have musculoskeletal symptoms like mine, I’d certainly recommend consulting with an osteopathic physician to see if OMT could be appropriate. I was in extreme pain and distress when I first saw a DO, but after that visit I became an absolute believer in the power and effectiveness of OMT. Nothing else had worked for me, but OMT quickly relieved my pain.


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