What is Osteopathic Medicine?
Osteopathic medicine is a distinct path to medical practice in the United States. Osteopathic medicine provides all of the advantages of modern medicine including prescription drugs, surgery, as well as the use of technology to diagnose illness and evaluate injury. It also provides the added benefit of hands-on diagnosis and treatment through a system of treatment referred to as osteopathic manipulative medicine. Osteopathic medicine focuses on helping each individual achieve a high level of wellness by concentrating on health promotion and disease prevention.
Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine, or DOs, are fully licensed physicians that practice in all areas of medicine. Emphasizing a whole-person approach to treatment and care, DOs are trained to listen and partner with their patients to help them get healthy and remain well.
What Does it Mean to be an Osteopathic Doctor?
When you believe in caring for individuals-- not patients-- decisions are easier. When you strive to take everything into account-- mind, body, and spirit-- you know you're doing it right. When you believe that wellness calls for a whole-body approach and prevention makes all the difference, you're ready for the future of health care. When you Select DO, you know you've found the right path.
What Does a DO Do?
Throughout the nation, DOs practice the full scope of medicine in all specialties of the medical field, from pediatrics and geriatrics to sports medicine and trauma surgery
DOs receive the same medical training as other physicians, as well as 200 additional hours of OMM training. OMM is a hands-on treatment used to diagnose and treat illness and injury.
OMM has been shown to be successful in treating a variety of injuries and illnesses. For example, the use of OMM in treating individuals with pneumonia has been found to reduce the length of hospital stays and complications associated with pneumonia.
DOs are taught to focus on the whole individual, working with patients to achieve high levels of wellness and disease prevention. DOs work in collaboration with their patients and are trained to look at the whole person.
They take into consideration the impact that lifestyle and community have on the health of each individual, and they work to erase obstacles to good health. DOs are licensed to practice the full scope of medicine in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and other territories of the United States, as well as in more than 65 countries abroad.1 They practice in all types of environments, including the military, and in all specialties, from family medicine and obstetrics to surgery and cardiology.
DOs are trained to consider the whole person from their first days of medical school, which means they see each individual as more than simply a collection of organ systems and body parts that may become injured or diseased. This holistic approach to patient care means that osteopathic medical students learn how to incorporate the patient into the healthcare process as a partner. They are taught to communicate with people from different backgrounds, and they are given the chance to practice these skills in the classroom and a variety of other settings.
Tenets of Osteopathic Medicine
The American Osteopathic Association's House of Delegates approved the "Tenets of Osteopathic Medicine" as policy which abides by the underlying philosophy of osteopathic medicine. The tenets are:
- The body is a unit; the person is a unit of body, mind, and spirit.
- The body is capable of self-regulation, self-healing, and health maintenance.
- Structure and function are reciprocally interrelated.
Rational treatment is based upon an understanding of the fundamental principles of body unity, self-regulation, and the interrelationship of structure and function.
Solid Foundation in Primary Care
The osteopathic medical profession has a proud heritage of producing primary care practitioners. In fact, the mission statements of the majority of osteopathic medical schools state simply that their function is the creation of primary care physicians. Osteopathic medical tradition preaches that a solid base in primary care makes one a better physician, regardless of what specialty they might eventually practice.
Due to their whole-person approach to medicine, 57 percent of all DOs decide to practice in the primary care disciplines of family practice, general internal medicine, and pediatrics. The remaining 43 percent go on to specialize in any number of practice areas. DOs boast a strong history of serving rural and underserved areas, commonly providing their unique brand of compassionate, patient-centered care to some of the most economically disadvantaged members of our society.
Along with studying all of the typical topics you would expect student physicians to master, osteopathic medical students take approximately 200 additional hours of training in the art of osteopathic manipulative medicine. This system of hands-on procedures helps alleviate pain, restores motion, sustains the body's natural functions and influences the body's framework to help it operate more efficiently.
One vital concept osteopathic medical students learn is that structure influences function. Thus, if there is a problem in one part of the body's structure, function in that area, and possibly in other areas, may be affected.
Another integral tenet of osteopathic medicine is the body's innate ability to heal itself. Many of osteopathic medicine's manipulative techniques are focused on reducing or removing the impediments to proper structure and function so the self-healing mechanism can presume its function in restoring a person to health.
Along with a strong background of providing high-quality patient care, DOs conduct clinical and basic science research to help progress the frontiers of medicine and to demonstrate the effectiveness of the osteopathic approach to patient care. Presently, several organizations are involved in osteopathic clinical research in coordination with the Osteopathic Research Center. Established in 2002, the Osteopathic Research Center (ORC) in Fort Worth, TX conducts and promotes research on the pathophysiological mechanism and clinical results of OMM. The center functions as a catalyst for creating and conducting multi-center, collaborative clinical research studies. Initial research studies have focused on showing the effectiveness of OMM as it relates to numerous aspects of patient care.