I am frequently asked the question, "What is an osteopath (DO)?" I have come to understand this question is really asking "How are you different or the same as a traditional medical doctor (MD)?" There is not a simple answer to this question, because for a lot of patients there is often little or no difference in their medical office experience when they are being treated by a DO or MD. This is not really surprising as most DOs were trained side by side with their MD counterparts during residency and treat using the standard medical model. Medicine has become very complicated and because patients have a right to expect proficiency from their physicians this has encouraged more and more specialization to meet this demand. As a result, the emphasis on manual integration of body systems, once considered to be hallmark of osteopathic medicine, has gradually become a specialty within our own profession and a new board specialty was established called Neuromusculoskeletal Medicine/Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (NMM/OMM) to differentiate the extra training of those who choose to pursue this specialty.
In the United States, Doctors of Osteopathy (DOs) hold the same unlimited practice rights as Medical Doctors (MDs) in all 50 states and are recognized by the American Medical Association (AMA) as full-practice physicians. Like medical doctors, osteopathic doctors attend four years of medical school and then complete residency training in hospitals and clinics in their chosen specialty. DOs and MDs collaborate as colleagues in a range of medical settings.
In addition to classic medical training, all osteopathic physicians also receive a foundation in Osteopathic Philosophy and Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (OMM), emphasizing the interrelationship of body, mind, and spirit. Although all osteopaths receive OMM training in medical school, and many choose to integrate these skills into their chosen practice, whether it is family medicine, obstetrics/gynecology or cardiology, it is a skill that is not easy to master and, like all skills, requires continued education and practice. The time constraints of regular medical office visits often limit both of these.
Once we have completed our medical school training, we then choose an area of medicine to focus on by choosing a residency specialty. Many choose to become primary care physicians such as family physicians or internists while others choose to specialize as orthopedic surgeons, pulmonologists or cardiologists. I, for example, completed a three-year family practice residency, and then chose to complete a second residency to specialize in neuromusculoskeletal medicine (NMM).
So, what is "Osteopathy" from my experience? It is the recognition of appropriate movement throughout our body's systems. This movement is present in fluid muscle, bone, ligament, nerve impulse, and all tissue. Any restriction to motion inhibits our well-being and requires our system to self correct.
For more information
For an in-depth exploration of osteopathy and what osteopaths do, please visit www.osteodoc.com and view the hard work of Dr. Marc Rosen, DO, one of my mentors .