Acute and chronic non-specific low back pain, chronic non-specific neck pain, chronic non-cancer pain, main headache, and IBS were all included in the systematic reviews.
An assessment of the existing clinical evidence published in the open-access journal BMJ Open shows “promising evidence” that osteopathy, the physical manipulation of the body’s tissues and bones, may reduce pain linked with musculoskeletal diseases.
However, the data suggest that there is little or only inconclusive evidence to support its usage in children or for the treatment of migraines or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Osteopathy, which was created in the late 1800s in the United States, is based on the principle that the structure (anatomy) and function (physiology) of a person’s body are inextricably linked. Its goal is to correct the relationship’s imbalances.
Osteopathy, like other complementary medicine, has risen in popularity in recent years, especially for the treatment of musculoskeletal diseases. As a result, the researchers wanted to see how safe and effective it was in various situations.
They combed through research databases for systematic reviews and pooled data analyses (meta analyses) of relevant randomized controlled clinical trials published between November 2021 and November 2022.
Only trials conducted by doctors with an osteopathic education or osteopaths were considered.
Between 2013 and 2020, nine systematic reviews or meta analyses were found, involving 55 primary trials and 3740 participants.
The systematic reviews reported on the use of osteopathy in a wide range of conditions, including acute and chronic non-specific low back pain, chronic non-specific neck pain, chronic non-cancer pain, primary headache, and IBS.
The pooled data analyses reported that osteopathy is more effective than other approaches in reducing pain and improving physical function in acute/chronic non-specific lower back and neck pain and in chronic pain not associated with cancer.
The other comparative approaches included dummy treatment (placebo), sham osteopathy, light touch therapy, no treatment, waiting list, conventional treatment, physiotherapy or other forms of complementary medicine.
But small sample size, contradictory findings, and wide variations in study design meant that the evidence on the effectiveness of osteopathy for use in children with various conditions, ranging from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder to asthma and infantile colic, and the treatment of migraine and IBS, was limited or inconclusive.
No serious side effects associated with the therapy were reported in the 7 systematic reviews that evaluated them, although only two defined how these were measured.
“This overview suggests that [osteopathy] could be effective in the management of musculoskeletal disorders, specifically with regard to [chronic non-specific low back pain] and [low back pain ] in pregnant women or [those who have just had a baby],” write the researchers.
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