Context: High levels of human secretory immunoglobulin A (sIgA) have been shown to decrease the incidence of acquiring upper respiratory tract infections. Osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) has been shown to improve cardiac indices, increase lymph flow rates through the thoracic duct, and decrease sympathetic tone in postoperative patients and those in intensive care. Therefore, we hypothesized that OMT may also increase sIgA levels in people under high levels of emotional and psychological stress, thereby enhancing immunity and potentially preventing subsequent infections.
Objective: To determine if OMT increases sIgA levels in highly stressed individuals.
Methods: Twenty-five second-year osteopathic medical students were randomly assigned to an experimental group (n=12) or a control group (n=13). All participants were scheduled to take their national board examination (Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination-USA) within 2 to 3 weeks after the experiment. After each participant submitted a saliva sample for a baseline sIgA level assessment, the experimental group received 20 minutes of OMT while the control group sat quietly and relaxed in a separate area for 20 minutes. Participants in both groups rested quietly for 1 hour after the 20-minute session and then submitted a second saliva sample.
Results: A 2 × 2 repeated measures analysis of variance revealed that the experimental group displayed a statistically significant greater increase in postintervention sIgA levels than the control group (F₁,₂₃), 5.92; P<.025).
Conclusion: This study demonstrates the positive effect of OMT on sIgA levels in persons experiencing high stress. Results suggest that OMT may then have therapeutic preventive and protective effects on both healthy and hospitalized patients, especially those experiencing high levels of emotional or physiological stress and those at higher risk of acquiring upper respiratory tract infections.