Dr. Mark LaBeau - Osteopathic Doctor in Carmel Valley, California
What Is an Osteopath?
A doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO) is a licensed physician who intends to improve people's overall health and wellness by treating the whole person, not just a condition or disease they may have. This includes osteopathic manipulative medicine, which involves stretching, massaging, and moving the musculoskeletal system.
In all 50 states, DOs, also called osteopaths or osteopathic physicians, are licensed to prescribe medications, perform surgery, and utilize technological imaging to diagnose and treat illness and injury.
Several use hands-on, manual treatments to minimize pain, increase physical mobility, and improve the flow of blood and lymphatic fluids.
The American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine approximates that 25 percent of all medical students in the United States are graduating from osteopathic medical programs.
How are doctors of osteopathic medicine trained?
Like a doctor of medicine (MD), a DO has to first earn a bachelor's degree, followed by four years of medical school. In addition to this traditional education, a DO has to receive training in manipulative medicine.
After graduating from medical school, DOs take a rigorous national licensure exam, which includes the same material as the exam to become an MD. Both kinds of physicians are licensed by state medical examination boards.
DOs must complete a residency that might last 1 to 7 years depending on the practice area. They have to also complete an additional 200 hours of coursework that concentrates on the body's musculoskeletal framework.
Although a number of medical students graduate from traditional medical schools, interest in learning osteopathic medicine is expanding. Today, there are 37 accredited colleges of osteopathic medicine in the U.S..
How do you decide whether to see a DO or an MD?
Although DOs are trained in conventional Western medicine, osteopathy is considered a complementary practice.
The main distinction between an MD and a DO is that while osteopathic physicians might use traditional medical treatments, some also use manual therapies, like massaging and manipulating the spine.
If you're more comfortable being diagnosed and treated by a doctor that is open to alternative treatments, a DO might be a good fit.
While many MDs also use alternative treatments, osteopaths receive special training in treating people as a whole rather than targeting specific systems and symptoms.
What's the difference between a DO and a naturopathic doctor (ND)?
A naturopathic doctor (ND) attends a 4-year graduate program in naturopathic medicine and has to pass a rigorous exam given by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education.
Naturopaths are another field that is distinct from naturopathic doctors. Naturopaths have no governing body, are unlicensed, and might not be educated to the same degree as DOs.
Although DOs and NDs share a basic philosophical tenet-- that the body has the ability to heal itself-- what naturopathic doctors can and can not do varies broadly from one state to another.
In some states, a naturopathic doctor can be a primary care physician, diagnosing and treating individuals with natural and homeopathic methods. In other states, their responsibilities are much more restricted.
A DO is licensed in all 50 states to perform the same medical diagnostics and treatments as a medical doctor. Although some DOs use alternative and natural approaches, several rely on conventional treatments and approaches.
What's the difference between a chiropractor and a DO?
Chiropractors and DOs both receive specialized training in the relationship between the musculoskeletal system and overall health. Both are trained in the manual adjustment of the spine.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, chiropractors focus primarily on manipulations that use controlled thrusts to adjust the alignment of the spine. They're more likely to "crack" your back in the course of treating you.
Unlike DOs, chiropractors aren't licensed doctors. They're generally not required to complete residencies in approved facilities.
Do osteopaths have specialties?
Yes. Many DOs are primary care physicians, but they can specialize in any area of medicine, including pediatrics and surgery.
What kinds of tests and procedures can an osteopath perform?
Osteopaths can perform the same tests and procedures a medical doctor can, including diagnostic tests, blood and urine tests, and biopsies.
They can also prescribe medications, perform surgery, and treat patients of all ages using a wide range of treatments that encompass both allopathic (Western) and osteopathic medicine.