About Osteopathic Manipulation

Osteopathic Medicine began in the 1800s with the work of Andrew Taylor Still. Responding to the often primitive medical practices of his day, Dr. Still developed a new philosophy that focused on the whole body, as a system, and emphasized personalized patient care. Still began formulating gentle, hands-on techniques to improve health and treat bodily dysfunction. Today, OMT effectively prevents and treats injury or illness utilizing gentle pressure, lengthening, and resistance techniques that support and realign the body’s vastly interconnected nervous system, muscles, joints, and bones.

More on Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT)

The principles of Osteopathy include promoting the body’s homeostatic mechanisms used to maintain balance and health (temperature, blood sugar, blood pressure, fluids). OMT works to maintain homeostasis within these mechanisms and Osteopathic physicians, utilizing OMT,  treat what is termed as Somatic Dysfunction.

Somatic Dysfunction: "Impaired or altered function of related components of the somatic (body framework) system: skeletal, arthrodial and myofascial structures, and their related vascular, lymphatic, and neural elements. Somatic dysfunction is treatable using osteopathic manipulative treatment."     — American Osteopathic Association

Osteopathic Manipulation: Direct and Indirect

There are many OMT techniques that all address Somatic Dysfunction in different ways. These techniques are grouped into Direct and Indirect categories. 

Indirect techniques work with affected muscles in their shortened position. This is a position of ease for the muscle, which allows the hyperactive reflex to calm and let go of the abnormal contraction. Indirect OMT practitioners feel the direction of abnormal muscle contractions then, gently move them into a position of ease, allowing for what is called “release” (Myofascial Release). 

Dr. Redfern exclusively performs Indirect techniques. He has found them to be more effective in his 30 years of practicing and consistently more likely to reverse Somatic Dysfunction in a gentle yet durable fashion. He utilizes the influence of the Jones Strain-Counterstrain technique and practices an integration of “Segmental” Myofascial Release, using small positional changes focussed on the dysfunctional joint. He routinely addresses every vertebral level, not only the acutely painful area, as there are many interactions between different levels of the spine. 

Dr. Redfern’s interest in Indirect techniques began to form during his early years of study at Reed College where his thesis focused on the neuromuscular system (neurophysical), muscle contractions (muscle spindles), and the applications of OMT. He researched the mechanism by which there is an inappropriate, ongoing muscle contraction caused by hyperactivity in the stretch receptor reflex. In cases like this, the stretch receptor "thinks" the muscle is being stretched when it is not—causing the muscle to respond in chronic contraction. This occurs due to minor or major injuries, from slips and falls to car accidents. New injuries can also compound or trigger prior unresolved injury patterns. If severe and left untreated, this Somatic Dysfunction expresses itself in painful inhibition of everyday activities, movement, and bodily function. 

Direct techniques work to elongate a dysfunctional muscle, which is chronically shortened, to its fullest or most accessible extension by various means, including applying sudden thrusts to the affected areas. 

Conditions Treated

The most common conditions treated by OMT are back and neck conditions. These types of issues are often caused by an acute, obvious injury or by a prior injury that is triggered by everyday activity—causing back pain to arise, seemingly, out of the blue. The pain may be intermittent and patterned or may become chronic. 

Other conditions effectively treated by OMT include tension headaches, migraines, pain in the limbs, and symptoms related to internal organ functioning. The function of the internal organs can be restricted by Somatic Dysfunction either via reflex connections in the spinal cord, which excite the nerves regulating the organs (somatovisceral reflexes) or by restrictions in the soft tissues around the organs.

Utilizing Indirect methods of OMT, Dr. Redfern has treated asthma, heart palpitations, and many other symptoms with success by addressing Somatic Dysfunction through the body’s vastly interconnected neuromuscular pathways, muscular patterns, and systems that converge in the spinal column.