I chose to pursue my medical training in the osteopathic tradition because I consider it an “MD+”. D.O.s learn everything a traditional allopath (MD) does—and then some. In addition to the countless lecture hours, clinical clerkships and anatomy labs, we also learned the skill of hands-on osteopathic manipulation and the interconnectedness of the body. Osteopathy emphasizes a whole-person approach to treatment, valuing the health of body, mind, and spirit. It focuses on prevention and understanding how a patient’s lifestyle and environment can impact their well-being. One key aspect of osteopathy particularly useful in the stressful world we live in is the emphasis on balancing your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems (“fight or flight” systems). And although osteopaths are board-certified, licensed physicians that can prescribe medications, they do so only when absolutely needed and believe in pursuing integrative solutions to health problems.
For example, constipation may be due to slow transit, IBS, dyssynergic defecation, medications, sedentary lifestyle and many other reasons. In addition to evaluating those etiologies with colonoscopy, motility studies, etc, an osteopath also considers an increased parasympathetic tone leading to increased peristalsis, an increased sympathetic tone leading to decreased bowel movements and pelvic diaphragm dysfunction. Keeping those in mind, an osteopath can manipulate key contributors such as the vagus nerve to affect colonic motility. Another manipulation commonly utilized is the mesenteric lift.
Visceral osteopathy assists functional and structural imbalances throughout the body including digestive dysfunction. Here are some more evidence-based uses for visceral osteopathy in GI disease:
1. IBS: visceral osteopathy improves short-term and long-term abdominal distension, diarrhea and pain, and also decreases rectal sensitivity. Studies have down that it improves the severity of IBS symptoms and improves quality of life scores.
3. CROHN'S: there was an increase in quality of life and a decrease in the severity of fatigue in patients receiving osteopathy
3. GERD: osteopathic intervention of the diaphragmatic muscle increased lower esophageal sphincter (LES) pressure that may lead to symptom improvement