Somatic dysfunctions in patients: osteopathic concept

Somatic dysfunction

The definition of ’Somatic Dysfunction’ is: Impaired or altered function of related components of the somatic (body framework) system: skeletal, arthrodial and myofascial structures, and their related vascular, lymphatic, and neural elements.

Somatic dysfunction is treatable using osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT).

The positional and motion aspects of somatic dysfunction are best described using at least one of three parameters:

  • The position of a body part as determined by palpation and referenced to its adjacent defined structure.
  • The directions in which motion is freer.
  • The directions in which motion is restricted.
  • In the spinal area, a somatic dysfunction is mostly accompanied with connective tissue swelling or other trophicity changes left and right of the spinal processes.

The evolution from swelling towards other soft tissue trophicity changes is depending on the age of the patient and the age of the dysfunction. There are also gender and inter-individual differences.

The soft tissue (connective tissue) swelling is visible and palpable in most regions of the spine except for the region Occiput - C6.

A combination of several somatic dysfunctions is possible in one patient.

An easy way to find a somatic dysfunction is to use the word TART: A somatic dysfunction is found where these 4 findings are present at the same location:

  • Tenderness and/or pain: can be caused by inflammation, degeneration or neuroplastic changes, nociceptive driven functional changes or peripheral sensitization.
  • Asymmetry: positional asymmetry or uneven tissue or motor changes, but not always visible.
  • Range of motion: abnormal.
  • Tissue texture abnormality: swelling, trophicity changes.
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