J. McPartland, A. Giuffirda, J. King, E. Skinner, J. Scotter & R. Musty.
JAOA, 2005, 105(6):283-292.
Osteopatic manipulation has long been recognized to work on several levels, inducing musculoskeletal, neurological, and biochemical changes. One of the biochemical levels that has been investigated is that of the endocannabinoids in the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This system is considered the “master regulator” of the human body and is associated with feelings of pleasure and analgesia. It is therefore hypothesized that osteopathic manipulation is a tool to stimulate the ECS.
Who was it?
There were 31 healthy adult males and females aged 18 to 80 years in this study. All subjects had previous experience with osteomanipulative therapy (OMT).
What was done?
This randomized controlled trial compared the effects of OMT to a sham treatment. The study was blinded to the subjects. Treatment was administered in a 20 minute single session. Outcome measures included levels of serum endocannabinoids (pre- and post-treatment) and Drug Reaction Scale (DRS) Questionnaire scores. The DRS is a validated test that has been previously shown to distinguish between cannabimimetic and non-cannabimimetic drugs, and provides measures on perception, emotion, cognition, and sociability.
Subjects who received OMT experienced cannabimimetic effects, as assessed by the DRS. Many subjects in the OMT group showed an increase in levels of the endocannabinoid anandamide following manipulative treatment. Endocannabinoid levels did not change in the sham manipulation group.
This study demonstrates that manipulative treatment increases levels of the endocannabinoid anandamide in many subjects. Anandamide is known as the “bliss” molecule because it is generally associated with an increase in feelings of well-being. Although this study looked specifically at osteopathic manipulation, it is likely that these findings would also be observed with other types of manipulative therapy, such as chiropractic manipulation. Manipulative therapy therefore acts similarly to phytocannabinoids such as CBD, increasing the tone of the endocannabinoid system.
How was the study blinded to the subjects if they all had previous experience with OMT?
The methods report that the sham manipulation was one that the subjects were unfamiliar with called “biodynamic osteopathy in the cranial field (BOCF)”. It is described that “Sham BOCF techniques were delivered with subjects lying supine on the treatment table while the practitioner (E.S.) used light manual contact to “treat” subjects’ heads. The practitioner’s attention and “healing intention” were diverted by silently reciting “subtract serial seven” calculations.”