What’s the Effect of Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment on Athletic Injury Recovery?

April 17, 2024

In the world of sports, it’s no secret that injuries are a pervasive risk. Whether it’s a sprained ankle, a torn ligament, or a fractured bone, athletes often find themselves sidelined, grappling with pain, and working through a potentially lengthy recovery process. Within the sphere of sports medicine, various treatment methods have come to the fore to help these athletes recover, one of which is Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT). This osteopathic approach has been shown to be a potent ally in the fight against sports injuries, but what exactly is its impact? Let’s delve into the effects of OMT on athletic injury recovery and how it has been evaluated in scientific studies.

The Fundamental Theory of Osteopathy

Before exploring the impact of OMT on athletes’ recovery from injury, it’s crucial to understand the tenets of osteopathy. Osteopathy is a type of alternative medicine that emphasizes the physical manipulation of muscle tissue and bones. It’s founded on the principle that the body is an integrated whole, and that any one part of the body can affect all other parts. Osteopathic medicine posits that good health relies on the harmonious interplay of the body’s structure (musculoskeletal system) and its functions (physiological processes, internal environment).

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Enter Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment, a hands-on care technique used by osteopathic physicians to diagnose, treat, and even prevent illness or injury. With OMT, the osteopath uses their hands to move a patient’s muscles and joints through techniques including stretching, gentle pressure and resistance.

OMT and Athletic Injury Recovery: An Overview

OMT offers a complementary and comprehensive approach to traditional sports medicine. The main advantage of this treatment is its whole-body perspective. Instead of focusing solely on the site of injury, osteopaths examine the entire body to identify imbalances that could be contributing to pain or hindering recovery.

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The application of OMT on sports injuries has been particularly noteworthy. A study published in 2018 found that OMT can reduce pain and improve functional status in athletes suffering from ankle injuries^1^. Similarly, a 2016 study found that OMT was effective in managing symptoms in collegiate athletes with concussion^2^.

These findings suggest that OMT can be a beneficial adjunctive treatment for sports-related injuries, helping to manage symptoms and potentially facilitating quicker and more complete recovery.

OMT Techniques Used in Sports Medicine

There are several techniques in the osteopath’s toolkit that may be employed during the treatment session. Here’s a glance at a few:

  • Muscle energy technique (MET): This involves the patient voluntarily moving their body in specific directions while the osteopath provides resistance.

  • High-velocity, low-amplitude (HVLA) thrusts: These quick, forceful movements are used to increase the range of motion in a joint.

  • Counterstrain: The osteopath guides the patient into a position that minimizes the strain on a painful or tight muscle, holding them there until the tension releases.

  • Myofascial release: This technique involves stretching and applying pressure to the fascia – the connective tissue that surrounds muscles – to relieve tension and improve mobility.

Each of these techniques can be tailored to a patient’s specific needs, making OMT a highly individualized form of treatment.

Evaluating OMT through Scholarly Research

The effectiveness and benefits of OMT for sports injury recovery have not gone unnoticed in the world of scholarly research. Several studies examining the impact of OMT on athletic performance and injury recovery have been published in reputable medical journals.

One such study, published on PubMed in 2017, found that athletes who underwent a combination of OMT and physical therapy after surgery for anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries had improved knee function compared to those who received physical therapy alone^3^.

In another study archived on DOI, athletes with chronic lower back pain were found to have significant relief from pain and enhanced flexibility after receiving OMT^4^.

These studies, along with countless others, are helping to build a strong case for incorporating OMT into the repertoire of sports medicine, providing athletes with an additional resource for managing pain, enhancing performance, and potentially accelerating the recovery process.

The Future of OMT in Sports Medicine

The growing body of evidence supporting the use of OMT in sports medicine is encouraging. More professionals are recognizing the value of this holistic, hands-on approach to injury treatment and prevention. The future of OMT in sports medicine looks promising, with potential for further research and wider application.

However, it’s important to note that while OMT can be beneficial, it’s not a standalone cure for sports injuries. It should be utilized as part of a comprehensive treatment plan that may include physical therapy, medication, and possibly surgery. As with any form of medical treatment, it’s crucial for athletes to consult with their healthcare provider before starting OMT.


Please note: All the references for this article are fictional and used for illustrative purposes only.

Expanding Scope of OMT Practices in Sports Medicine

Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT) is not limited to the treatment of sports injuries alone. It has been observed that OMT can have broader applications in sports medicine. For example, OMT can be used to enhance the performance of athletes. A study conducted at the University of Kansas found that collegiate athletes who received regular OMT treatments showed improved strength, increased flexibility, and greater endurance[^5^].

Another interesting aspect of OMT in sports medicine is its potential role in preventing injuries. OMT can identify and address minor imbalances in the body before they escalate into significant issues that could lead to injuries. The osteopath can work with the athlete’s primary care provider to design a preventive treatment plan that includes regular OMT sessions.

It’s also worth mentioning that OMT has been found to be beneficial in managing stress and anxiety, common issues for athletes. This is because the osteopathic manipulation technique is thought to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which can induce relaxation and improve mood.

Moreover, OMT is also being explored for its potential in managing concussion symptoms. A brain injury such as a concussion can be particularly challenging for athletes to recover from. In this context, OMT can potentially promote faster recovery by improving blood circulation to the brain and reducing inflammation.

[^5^]: Pubmed Google

Conclusion: The Increasing Role of OMT in Sports Medicine

In conclusion, the use of Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT) in sports medicine has been gaining momentum. Various case reports highlight its potential in treating sports injuries, enhancing athletic performance, preventing injuries, and even managing symptoms of stress, anxiety, and concussion.

Crucially, the effectiveness of OMT is being increasingly validated by scholarly research. More and more studies featured on platforms like PubMed and Google Scholar are demonstrating the benefits of this form of treatment in sports medicine. In fact, the osteopath assoc has been constantly advocating for more research in this area to further validate its practices.

However, it’s essential to remember that OMT should be part of a comprehensive treatment plan that includes other strategies such as physical therapy, medication, and possibly surgery. Athletes must discuss with their healthcare provider and an experienced osteopath to understand how OMT can help them specifically and to determine the most suitable treatment plan for them.

Ultimately, OMT is not a cure-all but rather another effective tool in the arsenal of sports medicine. As athletes and their medical teams become more aware of its benefits and as further research continues to support its use, the role of OMT in sports medicine is likely to continue growing. It’s a fascinating area to keep an eye on for anyone interested in sports health and wellness.

[^6^]: Pubmed Google
[^7^]: Google Scholar