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The Somatic Connection  |   July 2015
Support for Application of Cranial Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine in Patients With PTSD and TBI
Author Affiliations
  • Hollis H. King, DO, PhD
    University of California, San Diego School of Medicine
Article Information
The Somatic Connection   |   July 2015
Support for Application of Cranial Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine in Patients With PTSD and TBI
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, July 2015, Vol. 115, 464. doi:10.7556/jaoa.2015.098
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, July 2015, Vol. 115, 464. doi:10.7556/jaoa.2015.098
Davis L, Hanson B, Gilliam S. Pilot study of the effects of mixed light touch manual therapies on active duty soldiers with chronic post-traumatic stress disorder and injury to the head [published online March 26, 2015]. J Bodyw Mov Ther. doi:10.1016/j.jbmt.2015.03.006. 
Researchers at William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso, Texas, were able to assess the impact of light touch manual therapy (LTMT) on soldiers with a diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and head injury. The study participants were recruited from active duty soldiers approved to participate in an intensive outpatient program designed to treat soldiers with PTSD, which included integrative therapies such as acupuncture, reiki, psychotherapy, massage, and psychopharmacologic therapy. 
The study took place before the participants were admitted to the intensive outpatient program. Inclusion criteria were self-reported injury to the head at least 2 years before the start of the study. This restriction controlled for the occurrence of spontaneous remission from traumatic brain injury (TBI). Exclusion criteria were shrapnel or prosthetics in the spine or cranium, history of brain surgery, fever, acute systemic infection, previous light touch massage of scalp, inability to tolerate light or moderate pressure on the scalp or body, lactation, or pregnancy. 
The 10 participants selected were men between the ages of 27 and 45 years with a diagnosis of PTSD. Ninety percent had a diagnosis of headache and 80% had a diagnosis of TBI. No control group was used. Each participant received two 1-hour LTMT sessions scheduled 1 week apart. In the sessions, the therapist palpated the head and other body regions as customized for each participant. The therapist primarily used craniosacral therapy and brain curriculum. Approximately 80% of the session was spent on the head, 5% to 15% on the sacrum and lower back, and, for some participants, 5% was spent on the rest of the body. 
Outcome measures were drawn from an array of assessment tools available to the military and used in the assessment and management of PTSD. Although almost all of the assessment results showed a decrease in symptoms and an increase in cognitive functions and mobility, the most notable findings were the decrease in self-reports of intensity of headache and intensity of anxiety after the 2 LMTM sessions (P=.008-.031). Also statistically significant were the results of the validated PTSD Checklist (P=.013) and the validated Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System scale for pain interference (P=.039). 
Although limited as a pilot study with no control group, this study shows the potential for similar osteopathic interventions to benefit patients with PTSD and TBI.