Osteopathic manipulative treatment can ease low back pain

February 27, 2013

If your lower back hurts, you’re not alone. In any given month, 18 percent of U.S. adults contend with pain in the lower back.

The good news is that the vast majority of low back pain (LBP) incidents clear up in three months. But if it continues, it’s designated "chronic." And if it’s your back, you probably have some other choice words for it.

Spine surgery can be beneficial in specific cases that have exhausted more conservative treatment, but many patients who suffer chronic LBP are reluctant to undergo surgery. A non-invasive, far less expensive treatment called osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) alleviates LBP for many patients, and is available through UNT Health.

OMT’s guiding principle: The osteopathic physician (DO) uses his or her hands to evaluate and treat the patient by helping the body’s skeletal and muscular structures align and balance. "Osteopathic physicians’ distinct training makes them particularly adept at diagnosing and treating pain syndromes related to the musculoskeletal system," says David C. Mason, DO, Chairman of the Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine Department at the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine on the UNT Health Science Center campus.

Because most LBP sufferers’ bones and soft tissues (muscles, ligaments, etc.) aren’t working together properly, OMT is a natural fit. OMT addresses dysfunctions in musculoskeletal structure and can optimize the body’s ability to reduce inflammation and fight infection, as well.   

UNT Health has four clinical OMT providers including Mason. He practices OMT, teaches medical students, serves in professional leadership roles and occasionally presents talks in the community. At a recent talk, he explained OMT to an audience of 70 Trinity Terrace retirement-community residents. "I often recommend combining OMT with treatment such as physical therapy, medical pain management and orthopedics," Mason said.  

OMT, a component of sound medical care, is begun after the physician considers the patient’s complete history and physical exam.  

For 140 years, DOs have made involvement of the patient’s mind and spirit, as well as the body, integral to healing. "DOs are trained to listen to their patients," Mason said. An in-depth conversation about how the patient uses his body is important in diagnosis. "Does the patient spend her workdays at a computer? Lifting heavy boxes? Driving a truck?" Mason said. "A person’s occupation and postural habits often determine which muscles and bones work well and which ones hurt."

To schedule an appointment with a UNT Health Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT) provider, please call 817-735-DOCS (3627).

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