US-trained DOs, or doctors of osteopathy, have full practice rights in all 50 US states and several international locations. They attend four years of osteopathic medical school, usually after achieving at least a bachelor’s degree, and further train in approved graduate medical education, ie residency with or without fellowships. They learn all elements of medicine, including surgery, pharmacology, and obstetrics. In short, they are functionally equivalent to MDs.
So what makes a DO different?
DO students are taught two things that are fundamentally different from the training of an MD: osteopathic philosophy and principles (OP&P), and osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM). DO students can spend upwards of 300 hours on learning different OMM techniques!
There are four tenets of OP&P:
– The body is a unit; the person is a unit of body, mind, and spirit.
– Structure and function are reciprocally interrelated.
– The body is capable of self-regulation, self-healing, and health maintenance.
– Rational treatment is based upon an understanding of the basic principles of body unity, self-regulation, and the interrelationship of structure and function.
OMM is based on the combination of OPP and manual medical approaches. The osteopathic physician uses his or her hands to change the structure of the ill patient, which in turn facilitates correct function, including self-regulation and self-healing, to affect the whole body unit. OMM is commonly used for musculoskeletal complaints but is indicated for the enhancement of the body’s disease-fighting properties. So a patient who presents with a sinus infection may receive an antibiotic prescription and an OMT technique to encourage drainage of the sinuses and blood flow to the affected area. Even DOs who do not personally use OMM have learned its importance in achieving and maintaining good health in all patients.