New evidence that osteopathy may relieve musculoskeletal pain

Benjamin Wedemeyer

A recent review has found that there is “promising evidence” that osteopathy may relieve pain associated with musculoskeletal conditions.

The research, published in BMJ Open, was led by Donatella Bagagiolo, PhD, Research Department, Scuola Superiore di Osteopatia Italiana in Turin, Italy. Bagagiolo and her team wanted to assess and summarize the available clinical evidence on the safety and effectiveness of osteopathy for different conditions.

Researchers evaluated data for systematic reviews and pooled data analyses of relevant randomized controlled clinical trials, published up to November 2021. They chose only trials carried out by doctors with osteopathic training or osteopaths to include in the review. Ultimately, they worked with nine meta-analyses conducted between 2013 and 2020, involving 55 primary trials and 3,740 participants.

The systematic reviews reported on the use of osteopathy in a wide range of conditions, including acute and chronic non-specific low back pain, chronic non-specific neck pain, chronic non-cancer pain, primary headache, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Their research found that osteopathy is more effective than other approaches in reducing pain and improving physical function in acute/chronic non-specific lower back and neck pain, and in chronic pain that is not associated with cancer. 

The other comparative approaches included dummy treatment (placebo), sham osteopathy, light touch therapy, no treatment, waiting list, conventional treatment, physiotherapy, and other forms of complementary medicine.

There was little or only inconclusive evidence to back osteopathic use in children, and for the treatment of migraine or IBS, according to the researchers.