Research update

Can OMT help traumatic brain injury patients? A Michigan DO plans to find out

Rebecca Wyatt, DO, begins AOA-funded research on the effect of OMT on functional outcomes and inflammation in brain injury cases.


Traumatic brain injury patients in Michigan may be about to get a dose of osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT).

Rebecca Wyatt, DO, who was awarded a research grant by the AOA this spring for her work on traumatic brain injury patients, began recruiting patients for her study last week with initial treatments planned as early as this week.

The $150,000 grant, one of eight grants totaling over $1 million awarded by the AOA this year, will fund research on the effect of OMT on functional outcomes and anti-inflammatory biomarkers in mild-to-moderate traumatic brain injury cases.

Dr. Wyatt, medical director at Origami Brain Injury Rehabilitation Center in Mason, Michigan, is the primary investigator on the study, which hopes to ultimately recruit 180 patients.

“With head injuries, the most frequent complaints we come across are headaches and dizziness, which can really impede a patient’s quality of life,” says Dr. Wyatt. “With our research, we hope to establish a foundation for using OMT to see an accelerated return to function.”

The protocol

During the 12-week study, researchers will divide the 180 participants into three groups of 60: a control group set to receive physical therapy only; a treatment group to receive physical therapy and OMT; and a sham group, which will receive physical therapy plus a sham treatment.

All study participants will receive physical therapy two to three days a week, while patients in the treatment group will receive thoracic and cervical paraspinal soft tissue OMT, suboccipital release, condylar decompression and venous sinus release OMT once a week, and sham patients will receive sham treatment once a week.

The researchers will also assess inflammation markers in patients prior to treatment and post-treatment to see if the protocol reduces inflammation.

“What we will be looking for in the patients is if they have an improved quality of life, better balance scores and an improvement in pain as well as intensity, frequency and duration of headaches,” says Dr. Wyatt, who is an associate professor at Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine (MSUCOM).

Applying for research grants

This spring, the AOA awarded over $1 million in research grants to eight principal investigators, including five DOs, who will use the funds to conduct osteopathically focused research projects. Increasing the impact of osteopathic research is one of the key tenets of the AOA’s strategic plan.

The grants will allow researchers to develop an evidence base that demonstrates the value osteopathic physicians offer patients and the greater health care community.

Interested in applying for future AOA grant funding? The AOA will begin accepting applications for its next phase of research grant funding starting Nov. 1. The deadline for all RFAs is Jan. 31, 2018. Visit the Research and Development page on for more information.

Anyone interested in participating in Dr. Wyatt’s study should call Origami Brain Injury Rehabilitation Center at 517-336-6060.

More stories on osteopathic research:

Getting into residency: Why research experience can give you an edge

How conducting research can advance your career—and the osteopathic profession

How technology from the movie “Avatar” is helping fuel osteopathic research


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