What is Osteopathic Medicine?
Osteopathic medicine is a distinctive form of medicine
Osteopathic medicine is a distinct pathway to medical practice in the United States. Osteopathic medicine provides all of the benefits of modern medicine including prescription drugs, surgery, and the use of technology to diagnose disease and evaluate injury. It also offers the added benefit of hands-on diagnosis and treatment through a system of treatment known as osteopathic manipulative medicine. Osteopathic medicine emphasizes helping each person achieve a high level of wellness by focusing on health promotion and disease prevention.
Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine, or DOs, are fully licensed physicians who practice in all areas of medicine. Emphasizing a whole-person approach to treatment and care, DOs are trained to listen and partner with their patients to help them get healthy and stay well.
What does it mean to be an osteopathic physician?
When you believe in taking care of people—not patients—decisions are easier. When you strive to take everything into account—mind, body, and spirit—you know you’re doing it right. When you believe that wellness calls for a whole-body approach and prevention makes all the difference, you’re ready for the future of health care. When you Choose DO, you know you’ve found the right path.
What does a DO do?
- Throughout the country, DOs practice the full scope of medicine in all specialties of the medical field, from pediatrics and geriatrics to sports medicine and trauma surgery
- DOs receive the same medical training as other physicians, as well as 200 additional hours of OMM training. OMM is a hands-on treatment used to diagnose and treat illness and injury.
- OMM has been proven to be effective in treating a variety of injuries and illnesses. For example, the use of OMM in treating patients with pneumonia has been found to shorten the length of hospital stays and complications associated with pneumonia.
- DOs are trained to focus on the whole person, working with patients to achieve high levels of wellness and disease prevention.
- Osteopathic medicine was started in 1874 by Andrew Taylor Still, MD. Learn more about the history of osteopathic medicine
- DOs – Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine- advocate a whole-person approach to diagnosis, treatment, and disease prevention
- Today, more than 25 percent of medical students in the United States are training to be osteopathic physicians.
- The nation’s approximately 121,000 fully-licensed active and practicing osteopathic physicians practice the entire scope of modern medicine, bringing a patient-centered, holistic, hands-on approach to diagnosing and treating illness and injury.
- Osteopathic medicine is the fastest growing medical field in the U.S., according to the U.S. Bureau of Health Professions. The DO population has grown 63% in the past decade and nearly 300% over the past three decades.
They consider the impact that lifestyle and community have on the health of each individual, and they work to erase barriers to good health. DOs are licensed to practice the full scope of medicine in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and other territories of the United States, as well as in more than 65 countries abroad.1 They practice in all types of environments, including the military, and in all specialties, from family medicine and obstetrics to surgery and cardiology.
DOs are trained to look at the whole person from their first days of medical school, which means they see each person as more than just a collection of organ systems and body parts that may become injured or diseased. This holistic approach to patient care means that osteopathic medical students learn how to integrate the patient into the health care process as a partner. They are trained to communicate with people from diverse backgrounds, and they are given the opportunity to practice these skills in the classroom and a variety of other setting.
1 Source: American Osteopathic Association, https://www.osteopathic.org
The American Osteopathic Association’s House of Delegates approved the “Tenets of Osteopathic Medicine” as policy which follows the underlying philosophy of osteopathic medicine. The tenets are:
- The body is a unit; the person is a unit of body, mind, and spirit.
- The body is capable of self-regulation, self-healing, and health maintenance.
- Structure and function are reciprocally interrelated.
- Rational treatment is based upon an understanding of the basic principles of body unity, self-regulation, and the interrelationship of structure and function.
The osteopathic medical profession has a proud heritage of producing primary care practitioners. In fact, the mission statements of the majority of osteopathic medical schools state plainly that their purpose is the production of primary care physicians. Osteopathic medical tradition preaches that a strong foundation in primary care makes one a better physician, regardless of what specialty they may eventually practice.
Because of their whole-person approach to medicine, 57 percent of all DOs choose to practice in the primary care disciplines of family practice, general internal medicine, and pediatrics. The remaining 43 percent go on to specialize in any number of practice areas. DOs boast a strong history of serving rural and underserved areas, often providing their distinctive brand of compassionate, patient-centered care to some of the most economically disadvantaged members of our society.
In addition to studying all of the typical subjects you would expect student physicians to master, osteopathic medical students take approximately 200 additional hours of training in the art of osteopathic manipulative medicine. This system of hands-on techniques helps alleviate pain, restores motion, supports the body’s natural functions and influences the body’s structure to help it function more efficiently.
One key concept osteopathic medical students learn is that structure influences function. Thus, if there is a problem in one part of the body’s structure, function in that area, and possibly in other areas, may be affected.
Another integral tenet of osteopathic medicine is the body’s innate ability to heal itself. Many of osteopathic medicine’s manipulative techniques are aimed at reducing or eliminating the impediments to proper structure and function so the self-healing mechanism can assume its role in restoring a person to health.
In addition to a strong history of providing high-quality patient care, DOs conduct clinical and basic science research to help advance the frontiers of medicine and to demonstrate the effectiveness of the osteopathic approach to patient care. Currently, several organizations are involved in osteopathic clinical research in coordination with the Osteopathic Research Center. Founded in 2002, the Osteopathic Research Center (ORC) in Fort Worth, TX conducts and promotes research on the pathophysiological mechanism and clinical outcomes of OMM. The center serves as a catalyst for developing and conducting multi-center, collaborative clinical research studies. Initial studies have focused on demonstrating the effectiveness of OMM as it applies to many facets of patient care.