What is a Doctor of Osteopathy

Many people don't know that there are two types of complete physicians in the United States. Many of my patients, after seeing me for many years, ask me what a D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathy) is. They didn't realize that I was not an M.D. (Medical Doctor).

The fact is that both D.O.s and M.D.s are complete physicians. They are both licensed to perform surgery and prescribe medicine in all 50 states. Is there any difference between these two kinds of doctors? Yes. And no.


History of Osteopathy

Osteopathic medicine was developed in 1874 by Andrew Taylor Still, M.D. Dr. Still was dissatisfied with the effectiveness of 19th Century medicine. He realized that many of the medications of his day were useless or even harmful. Dr. Still was a pioneer in the study of good health so that he could better understand disease processes.

The outcome of these studies led Dr. Still to found a philosophy of medicine based on ideas that date back to Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine. The philosophy focuses on the unity and interaction of all body parts. He identified the musculoskeletal system as a key element of health. He recognized the body's ability to heal itself and stressed preventive medicine, eating properly and keeping fit.

Dr. Still pioneered the concept of "wellness" 100 years ago. As time went by, and pharmaceuticals improved, D.O.s reincorporated the use of medication in the treatment of illness.


D.O.s and M.D.s are alike in many ways:


D.O.s bring something extra to medicine:

There are many good practioners in both camps and, in general, it is more important to find a physician who will talk to you, listen to you, and who you can trust. Even though it is emphasized in Osteopathic medical school, empathy and communication are things that cannot be easily taught. It takes a person who truly wants to help people solve their problems and live healthier lives. If you would like to find a D.O. in your area there is an internet directory of Osteopathic Physicians in the United States and several other countries. There is also an internet directory of physicians by geographical location where you could find a doctor.


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This information last revised  1/30/97