I realize that for many people with ADHD, stimulants like Adderall are a necessity. Fortunately, however, not all therapy is pharmacologic, and other modalities have proven effective when addressing impulsivity, hyperactivity and shortened attention spans. Simply providing parents and patients with a prescription for strong medications and expecting clinical improvement is a disservice—more can be done. For example, behavioral therapy has long been recognized as an effective intervention and involves organization, limiting choices, avoiding distraction, effective discipline, setting goals and providing rewards, and more. Moreover, new research published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association is suggestive of another type of non-pharmacologic treatment, too: osteopathic manipulative treatment.

Osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) is practiced by osteopathic physicians who use the power of touch to treat a variety of disorders including asthma, sinusitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, migraines, lower back pain and more. These physicians “manipulate” joints and muscles through exercises including stretching, pressure and resistance.

In a small Italian study, researchers treated 14 children—aged 5 to 15 years—with drugs and psychotherapy; this group served as the control. They then treated another 14 children with OMT in addition to such conventional care. Results showed improvement in selective and sustained attention in study participants who received OMT.

Obviously, this study is small and further research needs to be done. Nevertheless, this study is significant for at least two reasons. First, it adds to the ever-expanding number of conditions for which OMT is effective. Second, it suggests a simple and noninvasive treatment for a disorder which inconveniences millions of parents and patients worldwide.

On a final note, prescription drugs are great but they’re only one answer. We need to look past chemical compounds and clinical trials to find effective treatment. OMT is cheap, personal and effective. I’m a big proponent for its continued practice and research—we’ve only glimpsed the remarkable efficacy of this wonderful intervention.

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