Somatic Dysfunction - What Is It?

Osteopathy - a system of medicine based on the principle that disturbances in the musculoskeletal system affect other body parts, causing many disorders that can be treated by various manipulative techniques in conjunction with conventional medical surgical, pharmacological and other therapeutic procedures.  The manipulation of the body is gentle– stretches and small movements – designed to relax tight areas and help restore normal motion to stiff or “stuck” joints. Osteopathy is NOT Chiropractic.  Although some of our treatments may look similar, they differ on many levels.  Osteopathic treatment is very specific to your own individual condition.

What is the problem or cause of my pain?  Somatic Dysfunction.

 Somatic dysfunction is defined as altered motion or function of a joint or body part.  It is not “out of place” or usually a “slipped or herniated disk”.  It is much like a door that can’t completely open or close.  It cannot be seen on current static X-rays, MRI’s or CT scans.  It can restrict motion and/or cause pain and discomfort.  It can be directly or indirectly related to trauma.

How can somatic dysfunction be treated?

 Medication or surgery cannot correct somatic dysfunction.

  • Medications only treat the related symptoms (such as pain).  The symptoms usually return after the medication wears off.
  • Surgery corrects anatomical defects or removes diseased tissues.

Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT) is a gentle manipulative approach which works to:

  • Restore normal functional activity to the dysfunctional joint.
  • Relax the related muscles (which can be tight and acting like a splint).
  • Once a joint starts functioning better:
    • Swelling in the tissues can subside.  This can help to alleviate pain.
    • Pressure on the nerves can be relieved and the pain can subside.
    • Range of motion can start to improve.
    • Healing of the injured tissues can start to occur.

Analogy: we can suture a cut and put the tissues back in place, but the wound is not better until healing occurs.

Our goal with osteopathic manipulation is to restore normal range of motion wherever possible (by removing somatic dysfunction).  This may not totally reduce or relieve pain during your visit.  However the increase in motion will aid the body’s healing.  It may not reduce or eliminate the pain initially.  It can be compared to freeing a rusted door hinge – the first few movements may squeak, but as motion returns, so does ease of motion.  When motion returns, health follows.

© Osteopathic Vision 2011