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J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2019 Feb 1;119(2):116-125. doi: 10.7556/jaoa.2019.018.

Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment for Pertussis in the 19th and 20th Centuries: A Structured Historical Literature Review.



Cases of pertussis, or whooping cough, have increased in recent years despite widespread vaccination and adequate antibiotic treatments. Osteopathic physicians may want to consider using osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) as an adjunctive treatment modality for pertussis; however, suitable OMT techniques are not specified in the research literature.


To search the historical osteopathic literature to identify OMT techniques that were used in the management of pertussis in the pre-antibiotic era.


A structured literature review of electronic databases and historical osteopathic journals and books was conducted. Included were information on OMT techniques used for patients with pertussis.


The 24 identified sources included 8 articles and 16 book contributions from the years 1886 to 1958. Most sources were published within the first quarter of the 20th century. Commonly identified OMT techniques included mobilization techniques, lymphatic pump techniques, and other manipulative techniques predominantly in the cervical and thoracic regions.


The wealth of OMT techniques for patients with pertussis that were identified suggests that pertussis was commonly treated by early osteopaths. Further research is necessary to identify or establish the evidence base for these techniques so that in case of favorable outcomes, their use by osteopathic physicians is justified as adjunctive modalities when encountering a patient with pertussis.


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