What is an Osteopathic Doctor?

Many people know what medical doctors (MDs) are, but aren’t as familiar with the role of doctors of osteopathic medicine (DOs).

Both are fully licensed and trained in diagnosing and treating illnesses and disorders, and in providing preventive care. Both can also prescribe medication, do surgery, run tests and see patients.

DOs and MDs attend medical school and must complete residency training in their chosen field and pass licensing exams. While they are similarly educated and certified, the difference lies in their training and ideas of patient care.

Back when bloodletting with leeches, mercury therapy and blistering were the norm, the osteopathic branch of medicine was formed. In 1874, frontier MD Andrew Taylor Still was moved by the death of his three children and brought forward the osteopathic profession, making a difference in medicine not only in his time, but for the future. Osteopathy turned away from overuse of toxic medications and sought a more holistic approach to health care that emphasized preventive care.

What sets DOs apart now is the belief that body systems are inter-related. DOs focus on your whole body and how everything works together as opposed to focusing solely on specific parts or symptoms.

DOs receive special training in the musculoskeletal system, which is the body’s interconnected system of nerves, muscles and bones. In addition to studying medicine, students of osteopathic medicine learn osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT), which involves using the hands to diagnose and treat illness or injury. Some DOs will also move your muscles and joints using stretching, gentle pressure and resistance.

The American Osteopathic Association explains that DOs focus on prevention and partner with their patients to promote overall health.

According to WebMD.com, there are about 97,000 DOs in the U.S., which is about 10 percent of practicing doctors. But that number is rising as a quarter of all U.S. medical students are now on track to becoming DOs.

Odds are if you haven’t been seen by a DO in the past, you will be at some point in the future. When you do you, be assured that you will receive the same excellent care as you would from an MD, but with a more hands-on approach.

To check a DO’s license to ensure they are in good standing, click HERE to visit the Osteopathic Medical Board of California’s website.

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