Osteopathy improves heart rate variability

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Osteopathic treatment changes heart rate variability

One of the most accurate predictors of health problems is a fluctuation in the normal beat rate of a person’s heart. This fluctuation is known as Heart Rate Variability (HRV), HRV is a measurement that indicates how much the heart rate changes when the heart is stimulated by internal and external influences. Everyone’s heart rate fluctuates; it’s the amount of fluctuation that matters.

A high HRV score is a good thing. The higher the variability of beats, the more likely that you have a healthy heart. A low HRV is measured when there is little variability in the time between beats. Some of the medical conditions that a low HRV can indicate include myocardial infarction (heart attack), coronary heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, among many others. People who have a low HRV and have suffered a heart attack are more at risk of dying in the following three years.

The variability of heart rate is also an indication of how well the autonomic nervous system (ANS), the portion of the nervous system that controls involuntary functions such as breathing and digestion, is working. When the ANS is not functioning properly, a number of issues can develop, including blood pressure problems, difficulty breathing and swallowing, and even erectile dysfunction.

External Influences on HRV

It’s no secret that your quality of overall health has plenty to do with how you treat your body. It is no different when it comes to HRV. People who get regular exercise, tend to have higher HRV scores. On the other hand, smoking can lower HRV. Mental stress is another factor that will reduce HRV.  Exercise, quitting smoking, and finding ways to better manage stress may help to raise HRV scores, but for some people, it may not rise fast enough.

Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment

Osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) is a type of medical treatment that involves the use of hands in order to diagnose, treat, and prevent illness or injury. A recent study was conducted to see if OMT could help improve HRV scores in healthy patients. In the study, 66 participants were placed in three different groups. The first two groups received a treatment that targeted their needs (such as exercise) for one session, and then they received “sham” therapy (or therapy that actually does nothing) for a second session. The third group, acting as the control group, received no treatment.

Based on electrocardiography (EKG) readings taken during the study, researchers observed that OMT therapy showed a significant increase in HRV scores when compared to sham therapy and the control group. The researchers concluded that OMT does raise HRV in healthy individuals; therefore, further study needs to be conducted in order to determine how to best use OMT as part of a treatment plan to benefit patients who are not healthy.


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