About Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine
The Most Advanced Manual Medicine
Osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM) is the highest level of manual treatment in the world. Manual treatment, such as simple massage, has been around for at least four thousand years. In the late 19th century, osteopathic manipulative medicine (then called simply osteopathy) emerged as a complete reform of modern medicine. In that era, some medicines prescribed by doctors were toxic, including arsenic and radium. Because of this, osteopathic doctors learned to manually adjust the body to heal.
DOs have been around since the 19th century and are the fastest-growing physician group! Curious? You can learn a bit more about DOs and the history of osteopathic medicine!
Fully-Licensed Physicians, Board-Certified Specialists
DOs, like MDs, are complete physicians just like your family doctor or the one who fixes you up in the emergency department. In fact, our doctors have done all of that. They have delivered babies, removed gallbladders, managed vasopressors in the intensive care unit, and performed endoscopy. They are fully licensed physicians in medicine and surgery who have received additional specialty training in neuromusculoskeletal medicine. This gives them a powerful, comprehensive advantage when it comes to caring for the whole patient.
OMM is still used today to treat many conditions more effectively than medication or surgery. See our list of common conditions for which OMM may be the best option!
Our Doctor’s Training
Our doctors’ training begins in medical school with a deep study of anatomy and essential lessons in diagnosing problems in the human body by hand. While every DO receives some training in this regard, our doctors have completed a three-year intensive residency in the most advanced methods of manual diagnosis and treatment.
Once our doctors completed their training, they underwent some of the most rigorous medical testing in the nation.
1. A series of written board examinations which tested their knowledge of medicine of all forms.
These are the same tests your family doctor and surgeon took!
2. A focused, written examination of their knowledge related to the neuromusculoskeletal system.
It is really three systems in one!
3. A series of practical examinations testing manual diagnosis and treatment techniques judged by a panel of nationally-recognized, board-certified physician specialists.
Sitting down to take a test can be stressful. Imagine demonstrating perfect technique in front of the people who literally wrote the book on the subject!
4. An oral examination in which difficult clinical cases must be critically analyzed and solved before the same panel of experts.
They are one of only two specialties that grill their doctors with an oral exam!
More Than Physical Therapy & Chiropractic
Our doctors have completed eleven years of training after high school, including medical school, and passed some of the most difficult and comprehensive tests in the nation. By comparison, physical therapy and chiropractic require only seven.
Physical therapists and chiropractors focus on the musculoskeletal system. They do not have medical licenses to prescribe medication or order advanced tests like MRI. They are also never the last stop on the road to the right diagnosis and treatment.
Physical therapy is an excellent first step for many painful conditions of muscle and bone. It can involve a variety of techniques including stretching, exercise, ultrasound, and pool therapy. Doctors very commonly refer patients to physical therapy before trying invasive treatments like injections or surgery.
Chiropractic are most commonly known for adjustments in which part of the spine is allegedly realigned with a crack or pop, usually as part of a quick or forceful maneuver. While generally safe, these adjustments are the most dangerous form of manual treatment. Tensing or guarding against an adjustment can result in muscle injury. On rare occasions, nerves can be damaged. Quite rarely but most seriously, fatalities have occurred with chiropractic adjustment.
For those who are a little more curious
The first school for DOs was founded in 1892. It has been reported that D. D. Palmer, the founder of chiropractic, attended and dropped out of this school. He went on to found the first school of chiropractic in 1897. Whereas osteopathy is a reform movement in American medicine, chiropractic is distinctly non- medical. According to its founder, “chiropractic was not evolved from medicine or any other method, except that of magnetic [healing]”. 1
For a thorough, evidence-based review on chiropractic, read this essay from the American Medical Association.
1Palmer DD. Textbook of the Science, Art and Philosophy of Chiropractic. Portland, Ore Portland Printing 1910;
Conditions We Treat
Our physicians treat a variety of conditions affecting nerves, muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, and joints. In most cases, our patients come to us for relief of pain.
- Headaches, including migraine.
- Jaw pain, teeth clenching, and some symptoms of TMJ dysfunction.
- Neck and back pain including spinal arthritis and disc disease.
- Rib pain, including musculoskeletal chest pain.
- Pelvic, tailbone, and hip pain, including in pregnancy.
- Nerve problems coming from the neck or back, including spinal stenosis.
Because our physicians use different techniques and have different expertise, there are some conditions better suited to one doctor.
- Shoulder pain including rotator cuff tears (Dr. Visger).
- Elbow pain including tennis and golfer’s elbow (Dr. Visger).
- Plantar fasciitis (Dr. Visger).
- Flat feet, foot pronation, and weak arches (Dr. Dyball).
- Leg length discrepancy (Dr. Dyball).
Although most patients come to us for pain relief, we treat many other conditions, too!
- Concussion and post-concussive symptoms.
- Vertigo not caused by loose inner ear crystals.
- Sinus issues.
- Abdominal and digestive issues related to surgical complications or trauma.
- Newborn feeding difficulties.
- Plagiocephaly (babies with misshapen skulls).
- Ear infections in children.
- Numbness and weakness caused by some types of pinched nerves.
While our doctors can adapt techniques to help a variety of difficult conditions, there are some conditions we generally cannot help.
- Complex regional pain syndrome, previously known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy.
- Bone pain caused by active cancer (but we can treat cancer patients with other types of pain).
- Diabetic neuropathy.