Skip navigation links

June 14, 2024

Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine — a hands-on approach to patient care

When an adult suddenly lost their hearing with no obvious cause, they were able to find relief and answers with osteopathic manipulative medicine, or OMM.

Reddog Sina, a doctor of osteopathic medicine and assistant professor[LZ1]  of OMM at the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine, physically manipulated the patient’s jaw muscles to open the eustachian tube, which connects the throat to the middle ear. Opening the tube allowed air pressure in the patient’s body to equalize with pressure outside the body, which restored the patient’s hearing within a few treatments.

“A patient is typically referred for OMM by their primary care physician,” said J’Aimee Lippert, D.O., MSU Health Care physician and interim chair and associate professor for the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine’s Department of Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine. “During an OMM appointment, the osteopathic doctor evaluates how the patient’s body moves, identifies areas that are moving well and those that are not, and connects that information to the patient’s work, hobbies and past experiences. Physicians then use OMM to address areas of concern.”

OMM practitioners treat patients at every stage of life — from newborns to centenarians — who may be struggling with feeding issues, neck pain, back pain, joint and muscle pain, headaches and/or temporomandibular joint dysfunction, or TMJ. The process of OMM includes hands-on, nonsurgical diagnostics and treatment techniques to address a wide range of conditions that affect joint, bone and muscle function as well as mobility.

“The fact that I can evaluate a patient’s musculoskeletal system through inspection, palpation and motions testing, and treat them with my hands is something that is very unique to osteopathic medicine,” said Jake Rowan, D.O., an associate professor at the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine in the Department of Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine, who, like Sina and Lippert, also sees patients at MSU Health Care Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine.

OMM and osteopathic medicine are growing

The mission of MSU Health Care OMM is to maintain a model of osteopathic medical practice, provide leadership in the transformation and promotion of osteopathic principles and contribute to osteopathic philosophy’s biological, behavioral and clinical science foundation.

“For many patients, this is all quite novel, and understanding how their body functions can be a new concept,” Lippert explained.

According to the American Osteopathic Association, nearly 149,000 osteopathic physicians were in practice in 2023 — a 30% increase in just five years. Today, more than 11% of physicians are osteopathic doctors and 25% of all medical students in the U.S. study osteopathic medicine.

In addition to undergraduate and osteopathic medicine students from MSU, the MSU Health Care OMM clinic hosts high school students, visiting residents and visiting undergraduate and medical students. These opportunities enable the demonstration of how OMM works in real patient care.

“Students practice using palpation and osteopathic manipulative treatment in class, but when you’re treating classmates who may not have a significant issue going on, you don’t get to understand the richness and impact that osteopathic manipulative treatment can have,” Lippert explained. “It would be a similar scenario if a medical student only ever listened to a healthy heart, but never had heard a heart murmur.

“Those students who come to shadow us or do rotations in the clinic really get to see the power — the clinical impact — of using our hands,” she added. “They also have critical opportunities to apply their knowledge in clinical environments during primary care preclerkship courses, throughout clerkship rotations and during extracurricular and cocurricular experiences, such as the student OMM clinic, Street Medicine and sports osteopathic manipulative treatment.”

Clinical studies

MSU Health Care OMM also recruits for clinical studies. Current opportunities focus on chronic hiccups, scar treatment, low back pain and concussion recovery. The clinic also produces original projects and quality improvement studies.

Of special note is MSU’s Center for Neuromusculoskeletal Clinical Research, or CNCR. This lab houses a special treadmill equipped with motion-capture technology to conduct gait research, as well as equipment for concussion research. The lab’s state-of-the-art equipment also makes it a strong candidate for facilitating research partnerships.

MSU Health Care Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine by the numbers

  • 33,550 appointments in 2023
  • 3,621 new patients in 2023
  • 175 referrals per week on average
  • 17 attending physicians who also teach at MSU
  • 13 residents
  • By: E. LaClear and Dalin Clark

    Media Contacts