By G. Nathan Nakken, D.O.

How Hands-On Medicine Helps Kids

Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (OMM) is a hands-on medical treatment utilized by Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.s) to help diagnose, evaluate, and treat illness or injury. OMM can help with many common childhood ailments, such as digestive issues, ear infections, sinus problems, asthma, scoliosis, torticollis, headaches, and sleep issues. OMM can also help prevent or treat overuse injuries in young performers and athletes.

D.O.s. are licensed physicians who practice in all medical settings and specialties. Osteopathic medicine provides all the techniques and treatments of modern medicine with the added benefits of a holistic philosophy and the use of OMM, which is based on an in-depth understanding of how all of the body’s systems are interconnected.

The osteopathic philosophy views the body as one whole, interconnected system affecting overall health. Along with their four years of medical education plus internships and residencies, D.O.s receive an additional 500 hours in specialized musculoskeletal training on muscles, nerves, fascia, lymphatics, blood vessels, ligaments, and bones, using OMM techniques to gently move these tissues into their proper alignment. OMM seeks to remove restrictions to health and promote the body’s natural inclination toward self-healing.

While OMM is often used to treat musculoskeletal complaints like aches and pain, it can also help with many medical conditions, including those common in childhood.

Here are just a few issues for which DOs may suggest OMM to help your child feel better:


Vaccines protect from illness by building antibodies to increase immunity, which is tied to the lymphatic system. Studies show that adding OMM lymphatic treatment to the administration of the hepatitis B vaccine increased immunity from 16% to 50%.[i]


Asthma, one of the most common chronic childhood illnesses, affects 7 million children in the U.S.,[ii] causing excess mucus production and airway narrowing that leads to wheezing. Combined with an asthma plan and needed medications or inhalers, OMM addresses dysfunction in the upper spine that supplies nerves to the airways, to balance the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. This may help decrease mucus production and ensure proper airway dilation.

Colic and Constipation

An infant with colic or constipation may cry on and off for hours, creating poor sleep patterns and concern for parents. OMM can be used to treat the nerves at the base of the skull that control suckling and the movement of food through the bowels. Additionally, gentle manipulation on the abdomen over the colon may decrease transit time through the bowel and decrease colic, constipation, and irritability.

Ear Infections (Otitis Media)

Ear infections are one of the most common pediatric bacterial infections, affecting 75% of children by the age of 5 years,[iii] with up to 50% experiencing recurrent infections.[iv] Usually a “wait and watch” approach is prescribed to avoid resistance to antibiotics. Research also shows OMM to be effective for ear infections.[v] Treatment of the upper spine can help nerves that supply the head and neck, as well as the bones that house the inner ear. OMM can treat muscles inside the mouth that attach to the Eustachian tube, to help pull down the ear canal and allow drainage of the fluid behind the eardrum, relieving your child’s pain.


At the heart of osteopathic medicine is the belief that the body has an inherent capacity toward self-healing. By viewing body, mind, and spirit as a whole system, listening to patients, and considering how environmental factors influence well-being, the osteopathic physician can utilize OMM to put the body back in its proper order and remove roadblocks to health.

The information contained in this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, care, or treatment. Always consult a qualified healthcare provider with any questions regarding any possible medical condition.

  1. Nathan Nakken, D.O., Clinical Assistant Professor at the Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine, specializes in Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine and Family Medicine at the Midwestern University Multispecialty Clinic in Glendale, Arizona. The Multispecialty Clinic utilizes the latest technology to provide high-quality care for the entire family, at affordable prices. For more information, call 623-537-6000 or visit


[i] Jackson KM, Steele TF, Dugan EP, et al. Effect of lymphatic and splenic pump techniques on the antibody response to hepatitis B vaccine: a pilot study. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 1998;98:155–160.

[ii] National Health Interview Survey (NHIS 2005), National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hyattsville, MD 2005. (Accessed on February 11, 2010).

[iii] Klein JO, Clin Infect Dis. 1994 Nov; 19(5):823-33.

[iv] Damoiseaux RA, Rovers MM, Van Balen FA, Hoes AW, de Melker RA, “Long-term prognosis of acute otitis media in infancy: determinants of recurrent acute otitis media and persistent middle ear effusion.” Fam Pract. 2006 Feb; 23(1):40-5.

[v] Mills MV, Henley CE, Barnes LL, et al. The use of osteopathic manipulative treatment as adjuvant therapy in children with recurrent acute otitis media. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2003;157(9):861-866.