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Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT) for CF

Today’s guest post on a technique called osteopathic manipulative treatment is brought to us by Jill Roberts. She is a UF alumni just up the road from me, now living in Oklahoma. We “met” on Facebook via the CF connection many of us have as mutual friends and she told me about osteopathic manipulative treatment this week. I was intrigued, so I asked her some questions I had and offered her a guest post. I asked my doctor about it and he didn’t have any info on it for CF, but he didn’t warn me to not give it a try. Ask your doctors at clinic and check it out if you’re interested. That’s how it happens, so I hope you enjoy the topic as much as I did.

Patient receiving osteopathic treatmentRecently, a friend of mine was devastated because the OB-GYN who delivered her first child was now considered out of network and she couldn’t continue to go to him for her second pregnancy. She was frantically trying to find a new physician as she was 3 months pregnant. Another friend said, “Do you want to go to a MD or a DO (osteopathic physician)?” She said, “I would really prefer a MD as I have never been to a DO.” I quickly pointed out to her that the physician that she was crying over was in fact, a DO. Most people do not know the difference between a MD and a DO. The fact is that both DOs and MDs are fully qualified physicians licensed to prescribe medication and perform surgery. Where a DO differs from an MD is that DOs “combine today’s medical technology with their ears to listen caringly to their patients, with their eyes to see their patients as whole persons, and with their hands to diagnose and treat patients for injury and illness.”

OMT and my experience with it

I have CF and had a double lung transplant in 1997. When my health started to decline, I was hospitalized a lot for “tune-ups.” The CF center I went to was a teaching hospital for a large medical school. I grew up with MD physicians, residents, and student doctors. One time when I was hospitalized, an osteopathic resident was doing his pediatric rotation at the Children’s Hospital. He was the lone DO among a whole bunch of MDs. He developed a special interest in me and he asked my mom if she would be willing to let him try OMT (osteopathic manipulative treatment) on me. She agreed and he snuck me into a treatment room. He did a special technique on me and I coughed up cups of mucus, literally. I felt so much better. His “theory” was that antibiotics were great for killing the bacteria, but if I didn’t get the mucus out, it would just be a harbor for new bacteria. That sounded logical to me.

He referred me to a physician who specialized in OMT. I was on the transplant waiting list at this time and was on 6-8 liters of oxygen just to breathe. When I would start to feel like I was drowning, I would stop by his office and he would do OMT on me and leave me in the treatment room with a box of tissues and a trash can. I would cough up a lot of junk and feel much better. I would always leave his office a little less blue and be breathing a little easier. I still did my Vest and my nebulizer treatments as prescribed. The times I would see him would vary, sometimes once a week, sometimes twice. Sometimes the effect lasted for a while, sometimes only a few days. You can’t predict how CF will attack from day to day and I never knew how I would feel when I woke up, but I was confident that I had a great counter attack. OMT made me feel better each time I went and I really credit that physician for keeping me breathing until I got my lungs. To my knowledge OMT has never been studied in CF and I can’t tell you that your PFT’s will increase by this percentage or that percentage. All I can tell you is that it helped me tremendously.

Fast forward a few years post-transplant and my new husband and I had relocated because he was in the military. I was outside one day and a strange cat jumped on my leg and scratched me. I didn’t think too much about it at the time, but when I got home that night and took my pants off, I saw blood on my sock and pants. I didn’t realize how badly the cat got me. An infection set in and I developed cellulitis in my right foot. The doctor I was seeing didn’t diagnose it right away and the cellulitis turned into lymphedema. My right foot was constantly swollen; sometimes so much that I couldn’t put my shoe on. I was told that this would be a life-long issue that I would have and I was appalled. I would never wear cute shoes again!

My mom suggested I that I look for an osteopath who specialized in OMT. I found one and she was excellent. She looked at my foot and then examined my entire body. That is the stamp of a great DO, they look at the body as a whole, not just at the lungs or the foot or the back or any other body part. They believe the whole body works together. My new DO was amazing. She relieved the swelling in my foot and I felt great. After my first visit, the effect lasted less than a week. I went back and she did the treatment again. That time it lasted longer. Each time you have OMT performed the effects build on each other. Eventually I was going about 6-8 weeks between visits. Since that DO, I have moved twice and I always found a DO who specialized in OMT. I now live in Tulsa, OK and the DO I have here is amazing. The swelling in my foot is mostly gone, sometimes it comes back after flying or if I am sick, but OMT gets it back to normal. I can wear cute shoes! Dr. E. also makes sure my lymphatic system is open and functioning properly so that my body can heal itself and I can stay healthy. He works on my diaphragm to make sure that I can take deep breaths and keep my lung function up. The methods he uses to treat me are so gentle that sometimes I can’t even tell he is doing anything. It is nothing like chiropractic work and not like a massage either. It’s one of those things that you have to see to believe.

OMT is done in a physician’s office and often times the physician is also a family practice doctor as well. In cases like that, my insurance has always covered it and I have only had to pay my copay. The DO that I currently see only does OMT and does not see patients in a family practice setting. Therefore, he charges a flat rate and does not bill insurance. However, he gives me a receipt and I submit it to my insurance company and they reimburse me, except for my copay.I still see a family practice doctor for my labs, pft’s and chest x-rays and I see my transplant doctor one time a year. I only see Dr. E for OMT.

Remember what sets a DO apart is that they “combine today’s medical technology with their ears to listen caringly to their patients, with their eyes to see their patients as whole persons, and with their hands to diagnose and treat patients for injury and illness.” I believe that statement is true. When I arrive at my appointments with Dr. E, he hugs me and asks me how I am doing. I tell him and he listens. If I tell him my knee is hurting, he examines my entire body to see why my knee is hurting. He doesn’t just look at the knee and stop there. When I told him I wanted to run a 5K, he gently reminded me that I had never run before and age 35 might not be the best time to start and that I had scoliosis. He said that I might hurt myself, but if I felt it was something I needed to accomplish, to do it and he would help me stay strong and injury free. He has kept true to his word.

As I said earlier, I have no scientific research to support my claims that OMT is a beneficial treatment for CF and post-lung transplant. However, I do believe that it has helped me tremendously. My transplant was 13 ½ years ago and I am still doing great. My transplant doctors know that I do OMT and they do not understand how it works, but they tell me to keep doing whatever I am doing. My lung function and kidney function are great. My FVC is 103% and my FEV1 is 102% of predicted. I am able to work full time and I feel great. Do I think OMT is the only thing keeping me healthy? No. I also try to eat right, take my vitamins, and exercise. I think that God puts people in our path and I think that He put that DO resident in my path many years ago. OMT has offered me an additional tool to stay healthy.

For more information about OMT, visit Go to “Find an Osteopath” and type in your city or state. Uncheck the box that says “search all specialties” and then select “Osteo Manipulative Treatment.” Remember, DOs are everywhere and they practice in all fields of medicince. However, even though they all learned OMT in medical school, they don’t all practice OMT. It’s important to find a DO who specialilzes in OMT. If there is someone in your area who does OMT, call them and talk to them about it. Who knows, it might be just what you need!


  1. MiddleAgedLady says

    When I lived in Big D, a forward-thinking dentist who treated my TMJ sent me to an osteopath for cranio-sacral (neck) adjustments. It IS very subtle, also very relaxing. And it helped. I think you’re on to something!

    • Jillroberts75 says

      The osteopath I see is very skilled in cranial work. If I start to feel a cold or sinus issues coming on I tell him and the cranial work does wonders. I love that he can help me and I dont have to start antibiotics. Glad it helped you!

  2. Jandsconner says

    Great article Jill. Dad