The role of gentle touch in perinatal osteopathic manual therapy
Osteopathic medicine is a system of manual diagnosis and treatment. While there is growing evidence that osteopathy is effective in a range of clinical conditions, the underlying biological basis of its therapeutic effects remain largely unknown. Given that the sense of touch plays a critical role in osteopathy, in this perspective article, with a particular focus on perinatal care, we explore the potential mechanisms by which stimulation of the skin senses can exert beneficial physiological and psychological effects, aiding growth and development. We propose that a class of low threshold mechanosensitive c-fibre, named c-tactile afferents, which respond optimally to gentle, slow moving touch are likely to play a direct and significant role in the efficacy of manual therapies. A greater understanding of the impact the type and quality of touch plays in therapeutic tactile interventions and in particular the neuroscience underpinning these effects will aid the development of more targeted, population specific interventions.