Letters to the Editor  |   November 2005
Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment Out of a Horse and Buggy
Author Affiliations
  • Robert M. Tessien, DO
    Minnesota State Osteopathic Association (now Minnesota Osteopathic Medical Society) Springfield, Minnesota
    President (1954-1955,1978-1979)
Article Information
Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment / OMT in the Laboratory
Letters to the Editor   |   November 2005
Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment Out of a Horse and Buggy
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, November 2005, Vol. 105, 496-497. doi:
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, November 2005, Vol. 105, 496-497. doi:
To the Editor: I am responding to the letters by Bryan E. Bledsoe, DO, and John C. Licciardone, DO, in the October 2004 issue of JAOA—The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association (“The Elephant in the Room: Does OMT Have Proved Benefit?” Available at: The response of Dr Licciardone to Dr Bledsoe's harsh comments about osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) was gentle, subdued, and proper, I suppose, because there is much controversy surrounding this topic. However, I do not know why one would say that OMT needs further research to prove its efficacy. 
My family became acquainted with osteopathic medicine in about 1913, when my maternal grandmother became very ill from some type of gastric disturbance. There were three allopathic physicians (MDs) in our hometown of Jackson, Minn, and each came to examine her. All three of these physicians told the family that nothing could be done and that my grandmother was going to die. 
At about that same time, two young osteopathic physicians (DOs) moved into Jackson and, since the best MDs around had given up on my grandmother, the family decided to try osteopathic medicine. The DOs were Drs Dymond and Calhoun. Dr Calhoun left Jackson after two years, but Dr Dymond stayed in town until his death at about 90 years of age. Dr Calhoun came morning and evening in his horse and buggy to treat my grandmother. Within a week, she was up and well and doing her work again. For me, this was a most impressive introduction to osteopathic medicine. 
Now, the reader and I both know that the restoration of my grandmother's health could have been a coincidence, but my family firmly believed that OMT saved her life. 
I think my most important early experience with osteopathic medicine began one rainy day when Elmer Johnson and I were having a friendly scuffle, and he put me in a headlock. When I tried to get out of the headlock, I twisted my neck. Within two seconds, I was suffering from acute nausea. After I shouted at Elmer and he let me go, my nausea subsided somewhat, but it did not go away. Now and then for weeks afterward, I had nausea to the point where it seemed I would vomit at any minute. 
About six weeks after that incident, I developed a fever of 102°F, and I felt so sick that I went to see Dr Dymond. He conducted examinations to evaluate my heart, lungs, and stomach, and he then administered OMT to correct my cervical lesion. After the treatment, Dr Dymond told me to go home and rest in bed, which I did. By the next morning, my nausea and fever had disappeared, and I felt healthy. As far as I was concerned, I now had proof positive that OMT works! 
As a result of these childhood experiences, I decided to pursue a career in osteopathic medicine. I studied at the Des Moines Still College of Osteopathy (now the College of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery of Des Moines University) in Iowa. After graduation, I opened my practice on November 3, 1935, in Springfield, Minn, where I have lived ever since. From 1940 to 1970, I owned and operated the state-licensed Tessien Osteopathic Hospital in Springfield. 
During a typical (long) day in my practice, I would see 40 to 70 patients, and 8 of 10 of them received OMT from me. When I provided OMT to my patients, the treatments were not always lengthy procedures, but they were long enough to correct my patients' lesions. 
When I retired in 1988, I had 53 years and 5 months of clinical experience as an osteopathic physician—perhaps the most extensive general practice in Minnesota—and I had administered OMT an estimated 400,000 times. These treatments were my main therapeutic procedure. The fact that so many people drove daily 20 to 120 miles for my OMT sessions indicates to me that no expensive trials of OMT are necessary. All that needs to be done to verify the efficacy of OMT is to consult old timers such as myself! 
I think I know the main problem that the osteopathic medical profession faces today. After graduation, too many DOs intern in hospitals were OMT is never practiced, never mentioned, and, in some cases, even prohibited. So these poor, partially educated DOs never really get an opportunity to use OMT as it should be used. 

Editor's note: Dr Tessien is the author of My Practice of Osteopathic Medicine: Complete Works (Kuchera Press; 1999).

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