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Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment for Chronic Pain

Embracing Relief—Osteopathic Treatment for Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is defined as pain that persists for many months or even years, beyond the normal healing time associated with an injury or illness. It can manifest in various forms, including musculoskeletal pain, neuropathic pain, inflammatory pain, and visceral pain, and may be accompanied by other symptoms such as stiffness, fatigue, and emotional distress. Chronic pain can have a profound impact on every aspect of life, affecting physical function, mental health, social relationships, and overall quality of life.

Chronic pain affects millions of individuals worldwide, presenting a significant challenge to both patients and healthcare providers. Spinal pain, in particular neck and “low back”, is endemic in advanced societies and consumes vast amounts of resources in direct healthcare costs as well as lost productivity and disability care. Whether stemming from injuries, medical conditions, or unknown causes, chronic pain can greatly diminish one's quality of life, affecting daily activities, mood, and overall well-being. While traditional approaches to pain management often involve medication and surgery, many individuals seek lower risk methods that offer a holistic and integrative approach to pain relief. Osteopathic treatment for chronic pain, grounded in the principles of osteopathic medicine, offers a comprehensive and personalized approach to addressing the underlying causes of pain and promoting overall health and wellness.

Osteopathic Approach to Chronic Pain Care

Osteopathic physicians (DOs) learn a philosophy of healthcare that emphasizes the body's innate ability to heal itself as well as the interrelationships between the body's organ systems, uniquely appreciating the role of how musculoskeletal system malfunction may affect other organ systems as well as whole body function.

The osteopathic understanding of chronic offers “something more” than the standard understanding of the cause of chronic pain: increased “sensitivity” of the central and peripheral nervous system. The standard understanding results in attempts to suppress the pain through medication or physical means such as neural destruction. While DOs recognize that “sensitization” may play a greater or lesser role in the persistence of a given patient’s pain, they also appreciate the role of musculoskeletal malfunction—phenomena that are not appreciated in the standard understanding.

Consequently, central to osteopathic treatment for chronic pain is Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (OMM) that includes unique methods for evaluating musculoskeletal malfunction known as palpatory diagnosis. In turn, Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT) is a hands-on approach that aims to restore optimal function. During an OMT session, an osteopathic physician may use a variety of techniques to optimize potential motion (aka “functional biomechanics”). Amongst others, those techniques include “soft tissue”, “articulation”, “post isometric relaxation stretching” (aka “muscle energy”), “myofascial release”, “counterstrain” and “thrust”. Restoring optimal potential motion promotes relaxation, improves circulation, and enhances mobility including respiration. By promoting optimal biomechanics, OMT can help alleviate and even resolve chronic pain resulting in improved overall function and well-being.

Comprehensive Assessment and Individualized Care

One of the key principles of osteopathic medicine is treating the whole person, not just the symptoms of a disease or condition. Osteopathic physicians take the time to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of each patient, taking into account their medical history, lifestyle factors, biomechanics, and psychosocial factors that may contribute to chronic pain. Based on this thorough assessment, DOs develop personalized treatment plans tailored to each patient's unique needs and goals, incorporating a combination of OMM/OMT, lifestyle modifications, stress reduction techniques, and other integrative therapies.

Addressing Underlying Factors and Triggers

In addition to hands-on techniques, osteopathic treatment for chronic pain may also involve addressing underlying factors and triggers that contribute to pain and reduced activity. As fully trained physicians, DOs also provide care for concurrent diseases and/or conditions that help perpetuate musculoskeletal malfunction. Palpatory diagnosis and/or the response to OMT may also help identify otherwise hidden diseases and other co-factors such as habitual poor posture/ergonomics, nutritional deficiencies, stress, and other emotional factors that may exacerbate pain symptoms.

Empowering Self-Healing and Wellness

By taking a holistic approach to pain care, osteopathic physicians empower patients to take an active role in their healing process and make positive lifestyle changes that promote long-term pain relief and wellness. Through education, guidance, and support, DOs help patients develop self-care strategies, coping mechanisms, and resilience to manage pain more effectively and improve their overall quality of life.


Chronic pain can be a challenging and debilitating condition, but it doesn't have to define one's life. Osteopathic treatment offers a holistic and integrative approach to chronic musculoskeletal pain management as well as the prospect of long-term pain resolution by addressing underlying causes of pain and promoting overall health and well-being. Consider exploring osteopathic treatment options to find personalized solutions that address your unique needs and help you embrace relief and wellness. With the guidance and support of a skilled DO you can reclaim control of your life and journey towards a pain-free future.

William James Brooks DO

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