A doctor of osteopathic medicine (D.O.) is a physician licensed to practice medicine, perform surgery, and prescribe medication.
Like allopathic physicians (or M.D.s), osteopathic physicians complete 4 years of medical school and can choose to practice in any specialty of medicine. However, osteopathic physicians receive an additional 300 - 500 hours in the study of hands-on manual medicine and the body's musculoskeletal system.
Osteopathic medicine is dedicated to treating and healing the patient as a whole, rather than focusing on one system or body part. An osteopathic physician will often use a treatment method called osteopathic manipulative treatment (also called OMT or manipulation) -- a hands-on approach to make sure that the body is moving freely. This free motion ensures that all of your body's natural healing systems are able to work unhindered.
Osteopathic physicians hold to the principle that a patient's history of illness and physical trauma are written into the body's structure. The osteopathic physician's highly developed sense of touch allows the physician to feel (palpate) the patient's "living anatomy" (the flow of fluids, motion and texture of tissues, and structural makeup).
Like M.D.s, osteopathic physicians are licensed at the state level. Osteopathic physicians who wish to specialize may become "board certified" (in much the same manner as M.D.s) by completing a 2- to 6-year residency within the specialty area and passing the board certification exams.
D.O.s practice in all specialties of medicine, ranging from emergency medicine and cardiovascular surgery to psychiatry and geriatrics. A majority of osteopathic doctors use many of the medical and surgical treatments that are used by other medical doctors.
Eisenhart AW, Gaeta TJ, Yens DP. Osteopathic manipulative treatment in the emergency department for patients with acute ankle injuries. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2003 Sep;103(9):417-21.
Guiney PA, Chou R, Vianna A, Lovenheim J. Effects of osteopathic manipulative treatment on pediatric patients with asthma: a randomized controlled trial. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2005 Jan;105(1):7-12.
Hondras MA, Linde K, Jones AP. Manual therapy for asthma. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2005 Apr 18;(2):CD001002. Review.
Huntzingkr A. AAP Publishes recommendations for the diagnosis and management of bronchiolitis. Am Fam Physician. 2007 Jan 15;75(2); 265-244.
Licciardone JC, Brimhall AK, King LN. Osteopathic manipulative treatment for low back pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2005 Aug 4;6:43.
Licciardone JC, Stoll ST, Cardarelli KM, Gamber RG, Swift JN Jr, Winn WB. A randomized controlled trial of osteopathic manipulative treatment following knee or hip arthroplasty. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2004 May;104(5):193-202.
McReynolds TM, Sheridan BJ. Intramuscular ketorolac versus osteopathic manipulative treatment in the management of acute neck pain in the emergency department: a randomized clinical trial. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2005 Feb;105(2):57-68.
Suchowersky O. Practice parameter: neuroprotective strategies and alternative therapies for parkinson disease (an evidence-based review): report of the Quality Standards Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology. Neurology. 2006 Apr 11;66(7): 976-82.
Allen J. Blaivas, DO, Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine UMDNJ-NJMS, Attending Physician in the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine, Department of Veteran Affairs, VA New Jersey Health Care System, East Orange, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.