New research by Dr. Jennier Xie, an associate professor of biomedical sciences at New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State University found that osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) could provide a viable, non-drug treatment for migraine headaches.
OMT is a set of hands-on techniques used by osteopathic physicians (D.O.s) to diagnose, treat, and prevent illness or injury. Using OMT, which is also known as osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM), a D.O. moves a patient’s muscles and joints using techniques that include stretching, gentle pressure, and resistance. The treatment, which uses the relationship between the neuromusculoskeletal system and the rest of the body to restore healing and functionality, is taught to osteopathic medical students and becomes part of their therapeutic toolkit when they graduate and become physicians.
While empirical evidence suggests that OMT may reduce the frequency and pain intensity of headache episodes and alleviate active migraines, little scientific evidence exists to demonstrate this. Xie received a three-year, $428,400 from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study the treatment. Xie and her fellow researchers at NYITCOM have published scientific evidence in the journal “Frontiers in Pain Research” that suggests OMT could offer a worthwhile, non-drug treatment.
Xie and her team, which includes NYITCOM at A-State osteopathic manipulative medicine faculty and medical students, successfully replicated human migraine triggers and symptoms in rats, closely mirroring the neck inflammation and volatile molecules that occur in human migraines. After OMT was applied, the researchers observed positive biomarker changes in the test subjects, which indicated that the intervention helped to relieve their migraine symptoms. The findings suggest that OMT may also be an effective, migraine-fighting treatment in humans.
“These findings provide the critical groundwork for future human studies and demonstrate that D.O.s, who are the only trained and licensed professionals who can provide OMT, may be uniquely positioned to assist migraine patients,” said Xie, whose research aims to identify and test potential chronic pain treatments, with a focus on finding effective, non-opioid therapies.
When Xie received her NIH grant in 2020, she became the first NYITCOM at A-State researcher to receive an NIH grant while employed at the medical school, which opened just four years prior. In addition, the grant has also allowed Xie and her students to research the challenges that OMT research faces. Their findings were recently published by the “International Journal of Osteopathic Medicine” in a second paper that provides practical solutions to help D.O.s design their clinical research.
“We are extremely proud of Dr. Xie and the groundbreaking work she’s leading,” said Shane Speights, dean of NYITCOM at A-State. “The research Dr. Xie is conducting at NYITCOM is invaluable to the Osteopathic community in demonstrating just how vital OMT can be in addressing both chronic and acute pain.”