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Osteopathic manipulative treatment has many applications in obstetrics and gynecology

by Deidra Duncan, DO

Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment, or OMT, is a set of hands-on techniques used by osteopathic physicians (DOs) to diagnose, treat, and prevent illness or injury. Using OMT, a DO moves a patient’s muscles and joints using techniques that include stretching, gentle pressure and resistance.

I am one of two DOs at Premier Women’s Care of Southwest Florida who can provide OMT, and the other is Dr. Cathy Balogh. 

As DOs, we have undergone additional training during medical school to learn osteopathic techniques. In general, DOs have an additional 200-400 hours of coursework throughout medical school dedicated to learning to understand and manipulate the musculoskeletal system.

The anatomic changes of the musculoskeletal system during pregnancy are diverse. As the pelvic girdle widens, it tilts forward, increasing the inward curve of the lower spine. This tends to stretch the extensor muscles of the trunk and pelvic joints, oftentimes leading to low back pain. The fetal head can also press against the nerves in the sacrum, which may cause sciatica, hip pain, and numbness or swelling in the legs.

We know that reflexes exist in the body in which manipulation of a muscle or nerve can have effects on particular organs. Osteopathic medicine seeks to influence what is believed to be a constant communication the muscles and nerves have with the organs in the body.

Andrew Taylor Still, the founder of osteopathic medicine, believed that our bodies function as a unit, with all systems working together to maintain homeostasis. He theorized that an aligned body was the key to health maintenance, and that the body is self-regulating and self-healing.

Studies have shown that women who receive OMT during pregnancy have shorter labor times, and OMT may even reduce the incidence of meconium-stained amniotic fluid, preterm delivery, and forceps deliveries.

OMT is not a drug and cannot be studied like one. The studies that exist, however, show a benefit to patients who receive OMT, especially regarding perception of pain and labor outcomes.  

Because there are not a lot of safe pain medications to use in pregnancy, OMT is a useful adjunct in treating many of the common pregnancy complaints, including low back pain, swelling, and carpal tunnel. In addition, OMT can alleviate constipation and help realign the pelvis as it stretches to accommodate the growing fetus.

Outside of pregnancy, OMT has helped patients with chronic pelvic pain and severe menstrual cramps. In fact, any pain complaint could ultimately be treated with OMT, even if it is just a part of the treatment plan. Unexplained pelvic pain and endometriosis may respond well to manipulation of the pelvis and low back. Resetting the receptors of the inflamed muscles and nerves may help to relieve some of the pain caused by these chronic conditions.

Some women require only one treatment to realign the body, while some require multiple treatments. In pregnancy, treatments are as needed and performed when symptoms arise.

In general, OMT should be covered by most insurance plans, so long as the treatments are deemed medically necessary. OMT should not be confused with chiropractic treatment, and within the context of obstetrics and gynecology it should only be performed by an ob-gyn physician with specialized training.

If you have questions about OMT and would like to discuss how it might alleviate symptoms you are having, you can call Premier Women’s Care of Southwest Florida or book online if you are an established patient. New patients can call or request an appointment using our new patient appointment form. Be sure to schedule with Dr. Balogh or Dr. Duncan. As DOs, we are both trained in OMT.

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