Osteopathy brings balance back to the body, leading to a decrease of complaints and is mainly used for ailments on the musculoskeletal system (back complaints for example). [1] Studies clearly showed the benefits of these treatments. [2][3]

For years, osteopaths have asked the question what exact mechanism leads to improvement. Several years ago this became clear. Osteopathic treatment increases the production of the body’s own healing and tissue-protecting molecules, like palmitoylethanolamide. [4] This explains the way osteaopaths explain their treatment:

‘An osteopath doesn’t treat a disease, but stimulates the body’s natural ability to heal itself’

Palmitoylethanolamide (PEA) is a bodily substance that brings balance, heals and repairs cells against damage. It’s production doesn’t only increase during osteopathic treatment, but also as a defense against infections, inflammation and severe pain. [5]

Brian F. Degenhardt, osteopath, together with scientists Nissar A. Darmani, Vincenzo DoMarzo, a real PEA specialist, and others, studied how the body responds to osteopathic treatments. It turned out that osteopathic treatment have no particular effect in a control group (as people are already in balance), but on patients with pain the body’s PEA production increases during and after osteopathic treatment.

 

Exactly what was done?

In a prospective, blinded assessment, blood was collected from 20 subjects (10 with chronic low back pain, 10 controls without chronic LBP) for 5 consecutive days. On day 4, ostheopathy was administered to subjects 1 hour before blood collection. Blood was analyzed for levels of -endorphin (E), serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine [5-HT]), 5-hydrox-yindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA), anandamide (arachidonoylethanolamide [AEA]), and N-palmitoylethanolamide (PEA).

Blood was collected in both treatment groups, the healthy group and the people with lower back pain (sciatica, back pain, hernia etc.). After that, osteopathy was administered to both the healthy people and the patients with pack pain. What was the outcome?

The present study demonstrated that, though daily PEA blood concentrations can be variable, base- line PEA concentrations were not significantly different between the chronic LBP and control groups. Osteopathic manipulative treatment increased PEA concentrations in both study groups at 30 minutes post treatment, with significantly greater changes observed in the chronic Low Back Pain group at that time interval. This change persisted in the overall study population, but it did not persist after 24 hours for either group independently.

These findings suggest that OMT causes a short-lived but greater increase in PEA concentrations in subjects with chronic Low Back Pain, relative to the increase in subjects without chronic Low Back Pain.

 

Broad indication for osteopathy explained

After learning the results of this study we can understand why osteopathy has such a wide indication, from fibromyalgia to hernia pains. In all these cases the osteopath creates a higher PEA synthesis in the body. Some osteopaths actually point this out, for example on their website. It has taken a long time to work out exactly why osteopathy has the effects it has. With PEA we have found a connection. That’s why combining osteopathy with taking the PEA supplement is a good idea. There are more studies that indicate that combining complementary treatments with PEA has an amplified effect.