Dr. John Jed Downs, an osteopathic physician from Madison Manual Medicine discusses the fundamentals of osteopathic therapy, including general history, diagnostic techniques and maninpulative techniques used in therapy.

There are a number of terms that get bandied around which are largely synonymous when it comes to osteopathic manipulative therapy. Other terms that may be used include osteopathic manual therapy, osteopathic manipulative medicine, and osteopathic manual medicine. It is a pity that more people are not familiar with the terms. Osteopathy was developed in this country in the 1870’s and has been taught continuously in the US since 1892. It was developed as a complete form of medicine that was an alternative to the crude surgeries without anesthetics and the toxic drugs of the day. Current practitioners of osteopathic treatment techniques consider it a form of complementary or integrative medicine and do not seek to invalidate medical advancements that occurred during the past century.

Osteopathic manipulative medicine holds these underlying tenets:

The body is an integrated unit of mind body and spirit.

The body possesses self regulatory mechanisms and has the inherent capacity to defend, repair and remodel itself.

Structure governs function and function governs function

Rational therapy is based on consideration of the previous principles.

Traditional osteopathy as practiced internationally adds an additional tenet:

The rule of the artery is supreme.

This is understood to mean that fluid flow within the body is critical. Impediments to arterial, venous, lymphatic, spinal fluid and other flows within the body are impediments to optimal function and optimal health.

With these truths in mind, the practitioner uses his/her hands to identify the regions in the body where blockages or restrictions exist to fluid flow, blockages or restrictions of mechanical movements of the joints. These blockages may be due to trauma, be it physical, surgical or emotional, postural habits, ergonomics, repetitive or cumulative trauma, or birth trauma as either the infant or the mother. These blockages are referred to as lesions or somatic dysfunctions and can be found almost anywhere. They may occur as a result of shock waves that hit distal to a site of injury, for example falling on one’s buttocks will send a wave up the spinal structures to the neck and skull. They may be due to shearing forces between tissues during rapid acceleration or deceleration events between organs or structures of different densities. Unfortunately, it may not be possible to identify all the root causes for a symptom complex.

After finding somatic dysfunctions, the practitioner mentally maps them and prioritizes the dysfunctions, before and during the ongoing treatment process. The treatment process is controlled by the practitioner’s hands and body. Depending on the quality of the tissues in terms of texture, mobility and subtle rhythmic motions, the provider selects the appropriate technique needed to restore movement and function to a target region. She/he then observes changes in response to the initial treatment before continuing on to treat other regions. Depending on the provider’s assessment and prioritization of the patient’s body’s needs for improved health and function, she/he may not end up directly treating the area of pain or region of lost motion.

Osteopathic treatment techniques include treatments that go into the ease of tissues which allow the body to unwind or untie itself in relation to dysfunction. Techniques include direct techniques in which tissues are put on stretch, others in which the nerves and muscles are hopefully retrained, and yet other techniques that are designed to break down a restriction, osteoarticular techniques, that may or may not be associated with popping or cracking.

The examination is comprehensive and looks for impacts of restrictions on nerves, arteries, lines of gravity, the autonomic nervous system, and the capacity of the head to express movement associated with spinal fluid circulation. The spine, ribs, joints of the extremities, interfaces between organs or the insides of cavities (chest & abdomen) and joints of the skull may all need to be examined and treated in the pursuit of better health and improved function.

Madison Manual Medicine
2940 Chapel Valley Rd #1b FitchburgWI53711 USA 
 • 608-512-7177

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