Context: Movement and loading asymmetry are associated with an increased risk of musculoskeletal injury, disease progression, and suboptimal recovery. Osteopathic structural screening can be utilized to determine areas of somatic dysfunction that could contribute to movement and loading asymmetry. Osteopathic manipulation treatments (OMTs) targeting identified somatic dysfunctions can correct structural asymmetries and malalignment, restoring the ability for proper compensation of stresses throughout the body. Little is currently known about the ability for OMTs to reduce gait asymmetries, thereby reducing the risk of injury, accelerated disease progression, and suboptimal recovery.
Objectives: To demonstrate whether osteopathic screening and treatment could alter movement and loading asymmetry during treadmill walking.
Methods: Forty-two healthy adults (20 males, 22 females) between the ages of 18 and 35 were recruited for this prospective intervention. Standardized osteopathic screening exams were completed by a single physician for each participant, and osteopathic manipulation was performed targeting somatic dysfunctions identified in the screening exam. Three-dimensional (3-D) biomechanical assessments, including the collection of motion capture and force plate data, were performed prior to and following osteopathic manipulation to quantify gait mechanics. Motion capture and loading data were processed utilizing Qualisys Track Manager and Visual 3D software, respectively. Asymmetry in the following temporal, kinetic, and kinematic measures was quantified utilizing a limb symmetry index (LSI): peak vertical ground reaction force, the impulse of the vertical ground reaction force, peak knee flexion angle, step length, stride length, and stance time. A 2-way repeated-measures analysis of variance model was utilized to evaluate the effects of time (pre/post manipulation) and sex (male/female) on each measure of gait asymmetry.
Results: Gait asymmetry in the peak vertical ground reaction force (−0.6%, p=0.025) and the impulse of the vertical ground reaction force (−0.3%, p=0.026) was reduced in males following osteopathic manipulation. There was no difference in gait asymmetry between time points in females. Osteopathic manipulation did not impact asymmetry in peak knee flexion angle, step length, stride length, or stance time. Among the participants, 59.5% (25) followed the common compensatory pattern, whereas 40.5% (17) followed the uncommon compensatory pattern. One third (33.3%, 14) of the participants showed decompensation at the occipitoatlantal (OA) junction, whereas 26.2% (11), one third (33.3%, 14), and 26.2% (11) showed decompensation at the cervicothoracic (CT), thoracolumbar (TL), and lumbosacral (LS) junctions, respectively. Somatic dysfunction at the sacrum, L5, right innominate, and left innominate occurred in 88.1% (37), 69.0% (29), 97.6% (41), and 97.6% (41) of the participants, respectively.
Conclusions: Correcting somatic dysfunction can influence gait asymmetry in males; the sex-specificity of the observed effects of osteopathic manipulation on gait asymmetry is worthy of further investigation. Osteopathic structural examinations and treatment of somatic dysfunctions may improve gait symmetry even in asymptomatic individuals. These findings encourage larger-scale investigations on the use of OMT to optimize gait, prevent injury and the progression of disease, and aid in recovery after surgery.