Effects of Practicing Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT) on Hand Function




Chang, Mary
Patterson, Rita
Surve, Sajid


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Purpose: Practitioners who use osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) rely on their hands to diagnose and treat patients. While the general population’s hand functionality declines with age, OMT practitioners seem to maintain hand strength and function as they age. Although majority of studies involving OMT examine its effects on patients, there is scarce research on how its practice affects practitioners. The purpose of this cross-sectional study was to assess OMT practitioners’ hand functionality by measuring grip strength and comparing it to published gender- and age-matched normative data. We hypothesized that OMT practitioners’ grip strength is maintained/improved versus non-OMT-practitioners of the same gender and age despite increasing age. Methods: 264 OMT practitioners at the American Academy of Osteopathy (AAO) Convocation (90 subjects in 2017 & 164 in 2018) provided self-reported demographic data via Qualtrics, such as age, gender, height, weight, number of hours per week average OMT performed over career, and number of total years of OMT practice. Then, their intrinsic and extrinsic grip strength was measured with a pinch gauge and Jamar dynamometer, respectively. Finally, anthropometric data was collected, such as hand length using a tape measure and hand volume using a volumetric dunk tank. Results: OMT practitioners’ grip strength decline was calculated at -1.9 pounds over 5 years (lb/5y) for males and -1.0 lb/5y for females. Their decline rate was less than published normative data (males -4.2 lb/5y, females -2.4 lb/5y). Other collected data is currently undergoing analysis and significance has yet to be determined. In the next phase of data collection, we plan to investigate participants’ hand usage outside of OMT practice, what types of OMT they are utilizing, if practitioners have ever injured their hands while performing OMT, and if they have previously completed the study. Conclusion: The grip strength results suggest that osteopathic physicians who practice OMT slow the rate of decline of their hand function as they age rather than experience the more rapid decline seen in the general population. Data analysis supports that OMT physicians maintain hand strength, possibly due to the nature of using their hands more than the general population. The results from this study serve as the first database of grip strength normative data not just for OMT practitioners, but physicians overall.