Due to the common adverse effects of motion sickness pharmaceuticals (e.g., drowsiness), medication options to treat the condition are limited. Thus many non-pharmacological therapies are being advocated for it. One of them is osteopathy.

The purpose of this study was to explore the potential utility of a nonpharmaceutical method for motion sickness prevention, specifically an osteopathic manipulative technique (OMT). A novel OMT protocol for the reduction of motion sickness symptoms and severity was evaluated using a sham-controlled, counterbalanced, between-subjects study design. The independent variable was OMT treatment administered prior to the motion sickness-inducing procedure (rotating chair). The primary dependent measures were total and subscale scores from the Motion Sickness Assessment Questionnaire.

The OMT treatment group experienced significantly fewer gastrointestinal (mean scores postprocedure, treatment M = 20.42, sham M = 41.67) and sopite-related (mean scores postprocedure, treatment M = 12.81, sham M = 20.68) symptoms than the sham group while controlling for motion sickness susceptibility. There were no differences between groups with respect to peripheral and central symptoms.

The authors concluded that the results suggest that the treatment may prevent gastrointestinal (nausea) and sopite-related symptoms (sleepiness). These preliminary findings support further exploration of OMT for the prevention of motion sickness. A more precise evaluation of the mechanism of action is needed. Additionally, the duration of the effects needs to be investigated to determine the usefulness of this technique in training and operational settings.

Motion sickness is one of those conditions for which many forms of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) have been tried and found in dodgy studies to be promissing, e.g.:

And now even OMT!

But before we rush into doing further research on this topic, we should perhaps ask whether the trial really does show OMT to be effective. Unfortunately, the article is behind a paywall, and I can therefore only speculate and ask whether the sham procedure was credible. Was the success of patient-blinding tested? I suspect it wasn’t. If that is so, it could mean that the OMT itself was not the reason for the results but that patient expectation caused the reported outcomes.

In any case, if nothing else, this paper shows yet again that the notion of OMT being an option purely for spinal problems is fantasy. Its advocates try everything to get it accepted as a cure all.


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