Osteopathic Manipulative Therapy: A Gentle, Relaxing Healing Alternative
May 31, 2017 02:21PM
● By Sue Brooks
According to American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM), osteopathic medicine, developed in 1874 by Andrew Taylor Still, M.D., is “a distinctive form of medical care founded on the philosophy that all body systems are interrelated and dependent upon one another for good health.”
Still, notes AACOM, is credited with pioneering the concept of “wellness,” recognizing the importance of treating illness within the context of the whole body and opening the first school of osteopathic medicine in Kirksville, Missouri, in 1892.
“Back then, osteopathic medicine was meant to be a holistic alternative to the medicine of the day, requiring only slight facilitation by the physician,” says Dr. Debora Reeh, a Moorestown osteopathic practitioner. “There were so few options available at the time, so it was meant to address a wide range of health concerns—from acute to chronic—by honoring the body’s natural healing potential.”
This Morris County, New Jersey, native’s interest in Still and integrative approaches to health care led her to pursue her medical career at an osteopathic school, “because it offered a type of manual medicine that could be used in conjunction with pharmaceuticals or surgery, as needed,” she says.
Reeh relocated to South Jersey and earned her Doctor of Osteopathy degree at UMDNJ-School of Osteopathic Medicine in Stratford, NJ (now Rowan School of Osteopathic Medicine).
After completing her training in family medicine and osteopathic manipulative therapy (OMT) locally, Reeh spent time working in a “typical” family medicine setting. That experience, she says, taught her a valuable lesson: “Conventional approaches aren’t always successful.”
“Once it became evident that OMT would be able to help in very distinct ways, I launched my practice in 2004, focusing on the application of OMT to patients of all ages.”
Reeh notes that she is part of a smaller contingency of practicing osteopathic physicians who continue Still’s approach to patient health by using OMT as their primary modality of care. His legacy also lives on through her teaching—she is a faculty member in her alma mater’s department of Osteopathic Manual Medicine.
Her specialization is in osteopathy in the cranial field. This intensive training, from which CranioSacral Therapy is adapted, incorporates treatment of the bones in the skull, and associated membranes, into the treatment of the whole body. “This type of treatment can be particularly effective for ear, nose, and throat disorders; concussion symptoms, and many other diagnoses for young and old alike.”
Dr. Reeh points out that common infancy problems, such as colic, reflux, nursing difficulties, spitting up and plagiocephaly, can also be addressed–and often successfully treated–with OMT.
“Even uncommon diagnoses like strabismus, sleep disorders, chronic constipation and breathing difficulties can benefit from treatment,” she says. “For children and adolescents, treatment can also be used to tackle ear infections, growing pains, scoliosis, asthma, headache/migraine, gastrointestinal disturbances, anxiety, ADHD, and learning and behavioral problems.”
Reeh contends that she has used OMT to successfully treat conditions that other clinicians may have been unable to, including acute and chronic pain, migraine/cluster headaches, sleep disorders, restless legs syndrome, TMJ pain, vertigo, tinnitus and bruxism.
“Patients often come to my office as a last resort following numerous visits to multiple specialists, trials of injections, physical therapy, and other potential medicine failures. OMT can even help the healing process and reduce pain and swelling after simple acute injuries like sprains, fractures, falls and surgeries,” she adds.
Reeh says that patients leave their treatments feeling relaxed. “My approach is focused on locating areas of tension and restriction of motion, and working with the soft tissues to restore balance, joint mobility, tissue vitality and fluid motion.
“Treatment is so gentle that it can be applied to everyone–even those who are fragile, like infants and the elderly. The body has so much healing potential just waiting for an opportunity to express itself!” Reeh adds.