Can Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment Help Heal Concussions?
Concussions and the damage they do to the brain and body have made headlines for the past few years as more and more professional football players are diagnosed with memory loss due to concussions they suffered during their playing years. But what if osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) could help forestall the damage?
Two reports published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association detail improvements in concussion-related symptoms following an initial session of osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT).
A concussion is a traumatic brain injury (TBI), usually caused by a blow to the head, which changes the way the brain functions. Most patients with mild concussions recover in a few days, but as many as 15 percent suffer symptoms for a longer period of time.
"OMT has long been an instrumental tool in treating athletes," said Dr. Naresh Rao, an osteopathic sports medicine physician who will be the team physician for USA Water Polo for the 2016 Summer Olympics. "With manual techniques including craniosacral therapy, we as osteopathic physicians have the ability to help the body restore the flow of cerebrospinal fluid through the central nervous system to promote healing and get our athletes concussion-related symptoms back to their normal activities."
In the first case, a 27-year-old man was treated three days after a snowboarding accident. He had fallen while not wearing a helmet and suffered from headache, nausea, dizziness and tinnitus.
After a single 25-minute OMT session, the patient reported the dizziness, tinnitus and nausea had disappeared. In addition, his scores on a test that measured balance (the Sensory Organization Test), improved from 76 before treatment to 81 after treatment.
The second case involved a 16-year-old girl with a history of three head injuries. The most recent injury was a head-to-head collision. Three weeks after the third injury injury, she reported headache, fatigue, and mood swings as well as memory and concentration problems that affected her daily activities.
The girl was evaluated using the Initial Concussion Symptom Score (CSS), which measures progression of symptoms on a scale of 0 to 144, and the Balanced Error Scoring System (BESS), a 0 to 30 scale measuring vestibular dysfunction.
On the day after her first OMT treatment, her Concussion Symptoms Score (CSS) decreased from 53 to 22 and her Balanced Error Scoring System (BESS) improved from 22 to 17. At the end of six treatments, her CSS was 0 and BESS dropped to 14.
"While the mechanisms of healing are not well understood with concussion, formal studies measuring OMT's impact on recovery and quality of life are much needed to demonstrate its efficacy as a viable therapy where there are very limited therapies to date," said Dr. Rao.
More than 300,000 sports-related concussions occur every year in the U.S., according to the University of Pittsburgh's Brain Trauma Center. Of those, 62,000 take place in high school contact sports.
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