You’ve probably thought this to yourself….what is Osteopathic Medicine? What makes a D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathy) any different from an M.D. (Medical Doctor)? If so, know that you aren’t alone and that there are many who have asked that same question. At one point, I was in your same position. You probably didn’t know that the founder of Osteopathy was an M.D. At the time he came into practice, medicine was taught a completely different way. You apprenticed into the field. His father, being a physician, apprenticed his son and he became a very successful practitioner of what was then modern medicine. However, he was not satisfied with the practice of medicine at that time, feeling that there was more that could be done to heal his patients. It was this commitment to do more that birthed the field of osteopathy.
So what is it that separates an osteopathic physician from a medical doctor? One of the tenets of osteopathy is that the body is a unit and that it has an inherent ability to heal itself. Therefore, my goal as a physician isn’t to find disease, but to help find and promote health. The interrelationship between structure and function also impact health. It is our belief that the application of manual medicine can help improve health as well as function. It is with these teachings that our science was founded and has continued to progress. It hasn’t all been a joyride though. There have been many obstacles that osteopathy has faced. For instance, you probably weren’t aware that the state of California, at one time, granted MD degrees to DO physicians in order for them to continue practicing medicine in that state. And that they would have to give up the right to identify as an osteopath or practice what the MD medical society considered “bad medicine.” This also cost the profession one of its medical schools. I’m sure you also didn’t realize that the practice of osteopathic medicine differs from country to country. Those of us trained in the United States practice medicine more traditionally. We are taught about physiology and pathophysiology, much like our MD counterparts. But, we are also given extensive education on the use of Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (OMM) which is a great adjunct in the management of many musculoskeletal disease and has applications in the treatment of other diseases as well.