What Is Osteopathic Medicine?


Osteopathic drugs is one in every of 2 totally authorised comprehensive systems of treatment within the us. Practitioners of osteopathic drugs ar known by the letters “DO” whereas medical aid physicians ar known by the initials “MD.” Osteopathic drugs emphasizes the connection between all organ systems of the body, including the musculoskeletal system (your bones and muscles) and the function of your entire body.

Osteopathic physicians ar authorised to bring down medication and perform surgery. Although quite sixty % ar medical care physicians, DOs follow altogether branches and specialties of drugs and have constant rights and responsibilities as MDs.

The popularity of osteopathic drugs has fully grown in recent years. According to the yankee Association of faculties of Osteopathic drugs, the quantity of graduates of faculties of osteopathic drugs quite doubled within the past decade. And the American Osteopathic Association reports that there are currently more than 77,000 DOs in this country, making up about 7 percent of all physicians.

You’ll find DOs in local hospitals, private practices, community health clinics, academic medical centers and military hospitals—anywhere you expect to find a physician.

So, if DOs are fully licensed physicians, what sets them apart from MDs? It is principally in their approach to a medical or surgical downside. The approach is rooted in their philosophy. DOs take a holistic approach to medicine; this means they focus on the total person, not just the particular symptom, illness or disease. DOs believe that every one the systems in your body—including the contractor system—operate in AN integrated means. Problems with one system can affect the others.

Perhaps the foremost important distinction between DOs and MDs is that DOs contemplate the role of the system in relationship to symptoms and unhealthiness. They have special coaching in recognizing and correcting structural issues through numerous manual techniques referred to as osteopathic artful treatment (OMT), which are used primarily for diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal problems. Given this concern with muscle and bone, it is not shocking that you simply can realize several DOs in {sports drugs|medicine|medical specialty} and physical medicine and rehabilitation.

How It Got Started

Andrew Taylor Still, an MD, thought of to be the daddy of osteopathic drugs, developed the discipline in 1874 after becoming disillusioned with how medicine was being practiced. A Civil War surgeon, Dr. Still was dismayed by the ineffectuality of ancient medical treatment. Later, he watched 3 of his youngsters die frommeningitis, despite medical treatment.

Dr. Still was significantly distressed by the employment of medication of this era. Many, like arsenic and mercury compounds, he thought of useless and even harmful. He centered on health, basic cognitive process that the anatomy has the power to heal itself. You could say he was an early proponent of “wellness”—now a common term among health care professionals. He known the system as a vital component of health and advocated practice of medicine, exercise and nutrition.

DOs and MDs: Many Similarities

In some ways, most DOs ar nearly indistinguishable from standard MDs. The primary distinction is philosophical and also the styles of diagnostic and treatment modalities that may be used in treatment. Throughout their training, DOs are taught to treat the whole person. While several incorporate artful techniques inside up to date medical practices, you might not see a huge difference between a visit to a DO and a visit to an MD.

It’s not surprising that there’s so much common ground. MDs have more and more embraced a whole-person (holistic) approach to medicine—for instance, recognizing the effect of stress on physical health. Meanwhile, DOs have embraced the diagnostic and therapeutic approaches employed by MDs, including the use of medication. The vast majority of DOs will use the same medical and surgical therapies as well as medications similar to an MD.

All states license DOs, and some have separate licensing boards. In states while not separate boards, DOs are licensed through the same process as MDs. Either way, all physicians (both DOs and MDs) should be approved by a state medical board examination to be authorised.

Both DOs and MDs attend three to four years of medical school, and applicants to both generally have a four-year undergraduate degree. After grad school, each DOs and MDs will prefer to pursue a specialty, like medicine, surgery, or tocology and medical specialty, that involves a four- to six-year postgraduate educational program.


You can head to a doctor of osteopathic medication (DO) for associatey condition that might lead you to hunt out an allopathic MD. Finding associate osteopathic medical man is simply as simple, however you need to obtain them out. Insurance firms cowl visits to a just do as they cowl visits to associate MD. So if you’re on a health set up, explore for DOs on your most well-liked supplier list. (Medicare and Medicaid also pay for DO visits.)

You can ask for referrals from other health care professionals, or go to the American Osteopathic Association’s website , where you will find a list of state associations that can refer you to a DO in your area.

Your visit can proceed like several alternative appointment with a health care skilled. The doctor or associate associate can take your case history. Some advocates of osteopathic medication say that, due to their holistic orientation, DOs could pay a touch longer with patients, probing into lifestyle issues and their relationship to the overall physical condition. The osteopathic distinction is that the total holistic approach to caring for a patient. Each patient’s experience is what counts. But no matter how much time is spent in the DO’s office, you may find a greater emphasis on your overall well-being and lifestyle than on just the complaint that brought you into the office. Once a detailed history is assessed, a physical exam is performed just like it would be in an MD’s office. Of course, the nature of the exam depends on the reason for your visit.

With some DOs, you may notice one significant difference: a focus on your body’s structure in relationship to its function. The DO will assess your posture by asking you to stand, walk, sit and lie down. As you perform these tasks, the DO is observing your movements, structure of the spine and muscles and the balance of your body.

As a part of osteopathic artful treatment (OMT), associate osteopathic medical man can conduct a active examination. This involves evaluating your back and limbs, checking joints for pain or restricted quality and testing your muscles, tendons and ligaments for tenderness. The DO conjointly can assess your reflexes, flexibility and muscle strength.

These techniques facilitate your doctor sight varied abnormalities, as well as restrictions in range-of-motion, structural irregularities and changes in tissue textures. Moreover, these techniques offer an extra dimension once making an attempt to slender down the reason for your upset or concern. Musculoskeletal disorders generally mimic alternative conditions and, consequently, OMT may help your DO make a more accurate diagnosis and appropriate targeted treatment.

Depending on the results of the exam, you may need other tests, including radiologic studies and/or lab studies, which the DO will order.

Women’s Health

DOs have a long-standing commitment to women’s health. In fact, Dr. Still was one of the first to admit women to medical school on a regular basis. Today, about half of the total enrollees in osteopathic medical schools are women.


Osteopathic physicians, or DOs, can be seen for almost any condition, but a visit may be especially appropriate for musculoskeletal disorders, such as:

  • carpal tunnel syndrome
  • back pain
  • joint pain
  • neck pain
  • sciatica
  • sports injuries

DOs may use osteopathic manipulative techniques (OMTs) to diagnose and treat these types of musculoskeletal problems.

While OMT is generally used for musculoskeletal problems, it’s also used to relieve other conditions, including:

  • arthritis
  • migraines
  • premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and menstrual pain
  • allergies
  • asthma
  • sinus problems
  • chronic fatigue syndrome
  • digestive problems
  • fibromyalgia

Osteopathic principles stress the body’s own natural healing powers, the importance of the system to the final well-being of the whole body and also the interconnection of all the body’s systems. It is a holistic approach, staring at the whole patient, not just the disorder.

DOs believe that OMT loosens lymphoid tissue congestion and will increase the circulation of natural antibodies, so boosting the system. OMT may additionally relax muscles, relieve pain, cut back stress, promote circulation, improve posture, stimulate the system and increase joint quality.

Studies are in progress to help explain how OMT works on these conditions. One possible explanation for some of OMT’s benefits is that it increases circulation and the release of endorphins. Release of these endorphins could lead to an increased feeling of well-being and a higher tolerance for pain.

OMT has conjointly been accustomed ease the pain of labor and delivery, in part by improving a woman’s posture and by helping pregnant women use their body mechanics effectively during delivery to cut back the time they pay pushing. Moreover, OMT is sober, an important consideration for pregnant women.

A few DOs specialize in cranial sacral osteopathic techniques, in which OMT is applied specifically to the bones, membranes and ligaments of your skull and tailbone with gentle, rhythmic pressure to affect your entire well-being. It is often used for migraines and other forms of chronic pain. Cranial sacral medical aid isn’t used as a primary treatment modality in bone cancer, bone or joint infection, a protruding disk or spinal-fusion surgery.

After a physical exam, your DO will decide on and develop a course of treatment with you. In most cases, it may be similar to that provided by an MD. For instance, in the case of a respiratory infection, you might receive antibiotics. But you may also receive osteopathic manipulative techniques than can improve the function of your lungs and rib cage. Your DO may also suggest an exercise program and dietary changes that can improve your particular condition. As necessary, an osteopathic physician may refer you to a different osteopathic or allopathic specialist when you need surgical or specialty care.

Depending on your condition and your DO’s initial approach to health care, he or she may use some of the many OMT techniques to relieve misalignments, improve joint mobility and treat other structural problems. These techniques embody soft-tissue manipulation, counter-strain, high-velocity/low-amplitude joint and spine manipulation, cranial sacral, muscle energy and many more, each of which is intended to correct misalignments of the musculoskeletal system and to relax muscles. It may want a massage or a treatment manipulation however it’s clearly totally different. The distinction is that osteopathic medication could be a complete system of drugs, and if medications or additional medical services are needed to complement your treatment, your DO is either able to provide them to you or refer you to a specialist.

Afterward, you may feel very relaxed. You may even experience a tingling sensation where the manipulations were performed. If you feel a little sore, don’t worry—soreness can be a normal reaction. But if the pain lingers, talk to your DO.

Your DO may suggest various stretching exercises for you to do at home to further complement the OMT, as well as lifestyle changes to improve your condition long term.

If you are receiving OMT, there will be follow-up visits scheduled as needed. Otherwise, it’s a bit like visiting the other primary health care professional—you’ll visit after you square measure unwell and are available sure regular check-ups to forestall unwellness and promote health. Your first visit may last up to an hour; subsequent ones may last about 20 minutes, depending on the reason for your visit. The cost will be comparable with the cost of a visit to an MD, and insurance coverage is comparable as well.

Facts to Know

  1. Although osteopathic medicine started out as a drug-free approach to the practice of medicine, the vast majority of doctors of osteopathic medicine are trained and licensed to be able to prescribe medication as needed.
  2. By combining all other medical and surgical therapies with osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT), doctors of osteopathic medicine (DOs) offer their patients more—a comprehensive approach to health care—because they are taught to treat the whole person, rather than just a single condition.
  3. More than 60 percent of DOs select careers in primary care—such as family practice, internal medicine or pediatrics—while others practice specialties such as obstetrics and gynecology, surgery and emergency medicine. Many practice in rural and low-income areas.
  4. Andrew Taylor Still, DO, MD, the father of osteopathic medicine, developed the specialty in 1874 after becoming disillusioned with the practices of allopathic (MD) medicine. He wanted to reform the practice of medicine but ended up developing a new branch of it altogether.
  5. Your DO will address various lifestyle factors during diagnosis and/or treatment, such as stress, diet, exercise and posture.
  6. OMT is considered extremely safe but is inadvisable for certain conditions, including bone cancer, bone or joint infection or a protruding disk.
  7. One form of OMT is cranial sacral osteopathic manipulation; this approach involves OMT applied to your head and tailbone using gentle, rhythmic pressure.

Key Q&A

  1. How do DOs and MDs differ?The primary difference is the philosophical approach of treating the complete patient with a comprehensive focus utilizing the standards of medicines, surgical techniques and the additional capability of osteopathic manipulative treatments. MDs generally are trained to diagnose and treat specific conditions, therefore viewing the patient in parts. For example, an allopathic cardiologist primarily examines a patient’s heart condition, while the osteopathic cardiologist will look not only at the heart condition, but also will review their stress levels, weight, eating/exercise habits, etc., to treat the entire condition that is causing the heart problem.Another difference is that the DO will focus more on the musculoskeletal system and its relationship to the patient’s condition. Accordingly, DOs receive intense and extra training in the musculoskeletal system and its impact on the rest of the body. This involves training in the use of the various osteopathic manipulative treatments.DOs tend to define a medical or surgical problem broadly. They will investigate other organ systems of the body, lifestyle, stress, diet, etc. It is important to remember, however, that DOs are the legal and professional equivalents of MDs. DOs are more likely to practice primary care—family medicine, pediatrics, internal medicine or obstetrics and gynecology—but they may practice any specialty of medicine.
  2. My doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO) didn’t perform osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) on me. Why?DOs will select the best therapy or other modalities that are necessary for the treatment of the patient as a whole. Not all conditions or each visit will require OMT. Remember, DOs are indistinguishable from medical doctors (MD) and thus utilize the standards of treatment, but are afforded an extra modality of OMT when appropriate.
  3. I had a few sessions of osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) and I don’t feel any better.Manipulation takes time as well as your participation in maintaining your treatment by making postural changes and other lifestyle changes for your condition to improve. Talk to your DO about other approaches to maintaining your treatment.
  4. How does osteopathic medicine differ from chiropractics?The most obvious distinction is that chiropractors are not the legal equivalents of MDs—they can’t prescribe medication or perform surgery. Although both DOs and chiropractors practice manipulation and share a philosophy that good health is tied to the body’s structure, chiropractors focus almost exclusively on realigning the bones and joints. DOs focus on the interconnectedness of the entire body systems. DOs practice holistic traditional medicine and can treat a range of conditions with an array of tools.
  5. A friend of mine had craniosacral therapy. Is that the same thing as cranial osteopathic medicine?No. Cranial sacral osteopathic medicine is practiced by trained DOs (and some MDs); it involves gentle pressure to your head and tailbone in a directed manner to obtain desired results. Craniosacral therapy is usually practiced by physical therapists, massage therapists or other alternative health professionals who never attended medical school. It is a therapy but not a treatment, and while it may have its benefits, it has its limitations in that it is not the complete treatment of the cranial sacral regions of the body. Be sure to talk to your health care professional before pursuing it.