Medical EducationOriginal ArticleCME

Teaching and use of cervical high-velocity, low-amplitude manipulation at colleges of osteopathic medicine

Annette Hu, OMS IV; Thomas Motyka, DO; Eric Gish, DO; and Godwin Dogbey, PhD
Notes and Affiliations
Notes and Affiliations

Received: May 14, 2020

Accepted: July 31, 2020

Published: February 11, 2021

  • Annette Hu, OMS IV, 

    Campbell University School of Osteopathic Medicine, Buies Creek, NC, USA

  • Thomas Motyka, DO, 

    Campbell University School of Osteopathic Medicine, Buies Creek, NC, USA

  • Eric Gish, DO, 

    Campbell University School of Osteopathic Medicine, Buies Creek, NC, USA

  • Godwin Dogbey, PhD, 

    Campbell University School of Osteopathic Medicine, Buies Creek, NC, USA

J Osteopath Med; 121(3): 265-270

Context: Despite the documented effectiveness of high-velocity, low-amplitude (HVLA) treatment of the cervical spine, concerns about patient safety potentially limit didactic instruction and use in clinical practice. Understanding how cervical HVLA is taught and employed is of interest to osteopathic educators and clinicians.

Objectives: To characterize the perspectives of osteopathic manipulative medicine/osteopathic principles and practices (OMM/OPP) departments within colleges of osteopathic medicine (COMs) in the US regarding patterns of teaching and practice of HVLA treatment of the cervical spine.

Methods: A questionnaire was distributed on April 11, 2019 in paper format to OMM/OPP department chairs or designated faculty member attendees at the Educational Council on Osteopathic Principles biannual meeting. If the department chair was not available, the survey was provided to the faculty member designated to represent the Chair of the institution at ECOP. All respondents in this category returned the survey in paper before they left the meeting. The OMM/OPP department chairs who did not attend or send representatives to the ECOP meeting were sent the survey by email on April 11, 2019 and given three opportunities over 6 weeks at 2-week intervals to reply to this voluntary online survey. The survey was given or sent to a total of 51 OMM/OPP department chairs or representatives. Six questions elicited demographic information pertaining to status, age, gender, ethnicity, board-certified specialty, and COM affiliation. Nine questions examined perspectives related to the instruction of cervical HVLA manipulation and treatment.

Results: Of the 51 OMM/OPP department chairs surveyed, 38 (74.5%) responded, 32 to the paper survey at the ECOP meeting and six to the digital survey. Respondents were primarily dual Board-certified in Family Medicine and Neuromuscular Medicine (55.3%). At over 90% (35) of the COMs for which department chairs responded to the survey, cervical HVLA instruction occurs in the curriculum primarily during program years 1 and 2. Instruction in cervical HVLA to the 2nd through 7th cervical vertebral levels occurred in 97% (37), while 11% (4) of the COMs excluded the occipital-atlanto (OA) and atlanto-axial (AA) joints. A high percentage (81.6%; 31) of the OMM/OPP department chairs or representatives reported employing cervical HVLA techniques within their practice. Among the respondents, 40.5% (15) reported that 0–25% of their school’s medical school class could perform cervical HVLA competently upon graduation, whereas 27% (10) said that 51–75% of their class could perform cervical HVLA.

Conclusions: A majority of COMs provide education in their curricula related to cervical HVLA primarily in the first 2 years of medical education. However, instruction often excludes cervical HVLA to the upper regions of the cervical spine. At COMs where HVLA to the cervical spine is not taught, that decision is because the techniques are thought to be too difficult and the attendant medicolegal risk perceived to be too high. OMM/OPP department chairs expressed confidence in only a small proportion of their graduates having the ability to competently apply HVLA to the cervical spine immediately after completing their predoctoral medical training.

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