A key osteopathic tenet involves the body’s ability to self-heal. Osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) has been evolved to improve this healing capacity. The authors’ in vitro work has focused on modeling 2 common OMT modalities: myofascial release (MFR) and counterstrain. Their studies have evaluated the effects of these modalities on wound healing, cytokine secretion, and muscle repair.
The key components of the host response to mechanical forces are fibroblasts, which are the main fascial cells that respond to different types of strain by secreting anti-inflammatory chemicals and growth factors, thus improving wound healing and muscle repair processes.
The purpose of this review is to discuss the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which MFR and other OMT modalities work, in particular, the role of strained fibroblasts in inflammation, wound healing, and muscle repair and regeneration. Changing MFR parameters, such as magnitude, duration, direction, and frequency of strain, might uniquely affect the physiologic response of fibroblasts, muscle contraction, and wound healing. If such results are clinically translatable, the mechanisms underlying the clinical outcomes of OMT modalities will be better understood, and these treatments will be more widely accepted as evidence-based, first-line therapies.