Osteopathic Medicine for Autonomics
by Melissa C. Overman
There is an additional, lesser-known approach for the vagus nerve and the entire autonomic nervous system—osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM). Osteopathic manipulation is part of what sets osteopathic doctors (DOs) apart from medical doctors (M.D.s). It is a collection of hands-on techniques that are used by some DOs to improve balance and function in the body. It is not the same as chiropractic, massage or other body work modalities. OMM techniques are considered very well-tolerated by all individuals, even small children and the elderly, especially when performed by a practiced DO.
When we are stressed, whether by physical exertion, emotional upset or challenging relationships, our autonomic nervous system activates to help us respond to the situation and survive—it is not something that we consciously control. The autonomics are made up of the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight mode) which OMM can address through work on the thoracic and lumbar areas; and the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest mode) which OMM can reach through work performed at the base of skull and cervical spine, as well as at the sacrum.
Research is continuing to support what osteopathic physicians have been learning as a foundation of clinical practice for over one hundred and forty years: The body is not a collection of independent systems. The body is a unit which, when in balance, is capable of self-maintenance and healing. It is a complex, fully communicating system, the details of which we are still learning.
Melissa C. Overman, DO, MPH, is the owner of Grace Integrative Medicine, located at 101-P NE Main St., Easley (co-located with Integrative Yoga Therapy). For more information, call 864-546-5505 or visit GraceMedStudio.com.