Posted by: notdeaddinosaur | April 27, 2015

Talk About “Manipulation”

I generally enjoy reading my Philadelphia Inquirer’s Health section each Sunday. In fact, for several weeks (beginning in February) I contributed to their Medical Mystery feature. Most of their stuff is generally spot on, providing good, solid information. Other times, not so much. I guess this was a slow week:

Question: How can osteopathic [manipulation] help my cold and sinus symptoms?

The correct answer is, “It can’t.”

But no. That doesn’t stop our friendly neighborhood Osteopath (excuse me: she’s also an assistant professor of osteopathic manipulation at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine) from chiming in. After correctly informing us that MDs and DOs get the same general training in school, she segues right into the old (discredited) idea that anything and everything wrong with the human body can be attributed to “blockages” of one variety or another. This is especially seductive when talking about upper respiratory symptoms, when subjectively one’s entire head feels nothing if not completely blocked.

But this:

An osteopath might use [osteopathic manipulative treatment] to gently contact the structures of the upper back, neck, and face and move them so deeper structures are affected, especially if they are blocking drainage paths.Freeing those deeper structures can help thin out mucus, loosen congestion, and ultimately make the patient more comfortable.

This is about as bogus as it comes.

There is no physical manipulation that can “thin out mucus” (pushing fluids does that) or “loosen congestion,” and given the self-limiting nature of cold symptoms, the patient is “ultimately” going to become more comfortable whatever anyone does.

At this point in time, Schools of Medicine and Schools of Osteopathy are parallel tracks providing essentially the same education and training. The reason many DO’s have abandoned osteopathic manipulative therapy (OMT) is because they recognize it as a vestige of philosophical differences from a bygone era predating our current understanding of medical science. Those who continue the practice are no better than MDs who have given up practicing actual medicine for the more superficially satisfying (and eminently more lucrative) practice of “alternative”, or “complementary”, or “integrative” quackery (despite the fact that they still use the M-word. What they practice is not medicine.)

Come on, Philadelphia Inquirer. I expect better from you.



  1. Your statement is ignorant, uneducated and lacks any credible scientific backing. It is the constructs of a close-minded physician preaching hate of professions she deems lesser than hers. A physician unlikely to have even explored or experienced the modalities in question. How disappointing to read such rubbish from a professional trained to analyze and respect scientific data.

  2. I just love your little column on medical subjects. Actually it would be good for other ideas or subjects too. Bright idea. I like it. – Gloria

  3. @anon-1: Can you say “projection”? I’m not “preaching hate”; I’m calling out pseudoscience. Can you show me any scientifically valid research on OMT for non-musculoskeletal conditions? Spoiler alert: No, you can’t, because it doesn’t exist.

    @Gloria: Thanks. 🙂

  4. But man does it feel good when my DO manages to free up my shoulder or neck by doing that magic pop pop pop. I have no belief that it fixes any sort of disease process, but I do love it for musculoskeletal pain.

    I’m having a hard time deciding on keeping my DO who does limited OMT but wants to refer all disease related stuff out to a specialist or a new DO who doesn’t OMT but is more willing to oversee and manage chronic conditions herself.

  5. Anon-1:
    Her post exactly exemplifies an assessment from a “professional trained to analyze and respect scientific data.” It is not “ignorant, uneducated” or lacking in “credible scientific backing,” but rather enlightened, educated and is fully backed by credible science. Your post is dripping with irony.

  6. We found a textbook of chiropractic gynaecology in the attic, and every section listed the cause of every illness, deformity, or hormonal problem experienced by women to be “subluxations” in the same place in the spine. All the prognoses were variations on “good, if caught early”. The idea that fulminating cancers should be treated with deep tissue massage was all the malpractice I could stand to read about. [I sent the book on to live with a women’s studies professor in Turkey as a historical document]

  7. Notdeaddinosaur, it looks like you touched (or manipulated) a very sensitive nerve of the first commenter. Maybe you should get your DO degree.

  8. “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.” Real science that is.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: