Osteopathic Manipulation Helps Children with Ear Infections
Osteopathic manipulation helps children who have had multiple ear infections by reducing the frequency of infections and preventing the need for surgery, according to a new study published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine (2003;157:861–6).
Acute otitis media (AOM, inflammation of the middle ear) is one of the leading causes of physician visits for children. Research has shown that antibiotic therapy has limited effectiveness and poses a potential danger by contributing to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains. Current recommendations discourage the use of antibiotics but offer few alternatives. Surgery is often used to treat children who have recurrent episodes of AOM. This surgery involves rupturing the eardrum and inserting a tube to allow better drainage and possibly to prevent the growth of colonies of infectious bacteria. Some osteopathic physicians have suggested that manipulative techniques might be effective in correcting structural causes of restricted drainage, thereby reducing the infection rate and the need for surgery. Preliminary studies have suggested that osteopathic manipulation might improve functioning of the eardrum in children with a history of recurrent AOM.
Fifty-seven children, ranging in age from six months to six years, participated in the current study. All of the children had experienced at least three acute ear infections in the previous six months, or at least four in the previous year. They were randomly divided into two groups: one group received routine pediatric care and the other received routine care plus nine osteopathic manipulation treatments over the study period of six months.
The treatments used were gentle techniques to open areas of restriction identified by the osteopathic physicians. These included applying pressure to joints, ligaments, tendons, and muscles in any areas of restriction in the body, with special attention to the head and neck. No high-velocity "popping" techniques were used. The children receiving osteopathic manipulation treatments had significantly fewer episodes of AOM and fewer surgeries during the study period than the children receiving standard care. Furthermore, scores on eardrum function testing improved in significantly more children in the group receiving osteopathic manipulation than in the group receiving standard care.
The results of this study demonstrate that osteopathic manipulation may be beneficial as part of a treatment program for children with recurrent AOM. Including osteopathic manipulation in the treatment of recurrent AOM, as well as other complementary approaches such as identifying and eliminating reactive foods and using herbal eardrops for pain relief, may prevent antibiotic overuse and reduce the need for ear surgery. Further studies are needed to confirm the findings of this study and to determine the optimal number and frequency of treatment sessions.
Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice in Quechee, Vermont, and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.
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