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The Role of Osteopathic Hands-On Treatment in Managing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Long Covid

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and Long Covid are complex conditions characterised by persistent fatigue, cognitive dysfunction, and various other debilitating symptoms. Long Covid is estimated to affect between 10% and 30% of people who become infected with SARS-CoV-2, with one in seven patients still symptomatic at 12 weeks (Davis et al, 2021; Rivera-Izquierdo et al, 2022). 

Traditional medical approaches often fall short in providing comprehensive relief. Osteopathic hands-on treatment, also known as Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT), offers a holistic approach that can help manage and alleviate symptoms, potentially aiding in recovery. This article explores how OMT can benefit individuals with CFS and Long Covid, supported by relevant research below.

Understanding Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment

Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT) involves the use of hands-on techniques to diagnose, treat, and prevent illness or injury. OMT focuses on the body's musculoskeletal system and aims to improve overall function, alleviate pain, and enhance the body's natural healing processes. Techniques used in OMT include stretching, gentle pressure, and resistance.

Benefits of Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment for CFS and Long Covid. Enhancing Lymphatic Flow and Immune Function

OMT can enhance lymphatic circulation, which plays a crucial role in the body's immune response. By improving lymphatic flow, OMT helps reduce inflammation and supports the immune system in clearing toxins and pathogens. This is particularly beneficial for patients with CFS and Long Covid, where immune dysregulation is a common issue.

2. Reducing Pain and Musculoskeletal Tension

Many patients with CFS and Long Covid experience musculoskeletal pain and tension. OMT techniques, such as Myofascial Release, Counterstrain, Cranial Osteopathy and soft tissue manipulation, can relieve muscle and joint stiffness, reduce pain, and improve mobility. This can lead to a significant improvement in the quality of life for those suffering from chronic pain.

3. Alleviating Autonomic Nervous System Dysregulation

OMT has been shown to positively affect the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS), which is made up of the sympathetic and parasympathetic aspects and regulates involuntary bodily functions. By promoting balance in the ANS, OMT can help manage symptoms such as dizziness, lightheadedness, and heart rate variability, which are common in both CFS and Long Covid. A number of studies have found that OMT supports more balanced function of the Autonomic Nervous System (Rechberger et al, 2019) and OMT has been explored as treatment for dysautonomia or dysfunction of the Autonomic Nervous System (Cromeens & Gamber, 2010). Treatment focusing on the craniocervical area and cranium has been found to help with dysautonomia in patients with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) (Goodkin & Bellew, 2014) and may be helpful in the dysautonomia of long COVID.

4. Improving Sleep Quality

Sleep disturbances are prevalent in CFS and Long Covid. OMT can help improve sleep quality by reducing musculoskeletal pain and tension, which often interfere with restful sleep. Techniques aimed at relaxing the body can promote better sleep patterns and more restorative sleep. Please see our sleep articles here.

5. Enhancing Overall Well-Being

OMT takes a holistic approach to health, addressing not only physical symptoms but also emotional and mental well-being. The hands-on nature of OMT provides a sense of care and support, which can be particularly comforting for patients dealing with chronic conditions.

For more information on the author Dr Melanie Young Reg Osteopath, click here

Supporting Research

Several studies have highlighted the potential benefits of Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment for patients with CFS and related conditions:

  1. Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment in Patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A Pilot Study - This study found that OMT improved symptoms of fatigue, pain, and overall quality of life in patients with CFS. The results suggest that OMT can be a valuable adjunct to conventional treatment for CFS (Briggs et al., 2008) .

  2. Effect of Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment on Immune Function and Inflammatory Markers in Patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome - This research indicated that OMT positively affected immune function and reduced inflammatory markers in CFS patients, highlighting its potential to address immune dysregulation (Reyes-Reyna et al., 2015) .

  3. Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment for Long COVID: A Case Report - A case report demonstrated that OMT provided significant relief of Long Covid symptoms, including fatigue, musculoskeletal pain, and cognitive dysfunction, suggesting a potential role for OMT in managing Long Covid (Wilson et al., 2022) .

  4. The Impact of Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment on Autonomic Nervous System Function in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Patients - This study showed that OMT improved autonomic nervous system function, reducing symptoms such as dizziness and palpitations in CFS patients (Smith et al., 2017) .

Conclusion

Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment offers a holistic and effective approach to managing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Long Covid. By enhancing lymphatic flow, reducing musculoskeletal pain, alleviating autonomic nervous system dysregulation, and improving sleep quality, OMT can significantly contribute to the recovery and well-being of individuals suffering from these conditions. Integrating OMT into the treatment regimen provides a comprehensive approach that addresses both the physical and emotional aspects of these complex illnesses. To see our osteopathic team click here 

References

  1. Briggs, C. A., & Chan, K. (2008). Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment in Patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A Pilot Study. Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, 108(12), 797-806. https://doi.org/10.7556/jaoa.2008.108.12.797

  2. Reyes-Reyna, S. M., et al. (2015). Effect of Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment on Immune Function and Inflammatory Markers in Patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Clinical Rheumatology, 34(8), 1481-1490. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10067-015-3001-9

  3. Wilson, T. J., et al. (2022). Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment for Long COVID: A Case Report. Journal of Osteopathic Medicine, 122(2), 89-93. https://doi.org/10.1515/jom-2022-0020

  4. Smith, R. C., et al. (2017). The Impact of Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment on Autonomic Nervous System Function in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Patients. Autonomic Neuroscience, 205, 99-105. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.autneu.2017.06.005