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Osteopath (DO)

Overview

A doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO) is a physician licensed to practice medicine, perform surgery, and prescribe medication. Like allopathic physicians (MDs), osteopathic physicians complete four years of medical school and can choose to practice in any specialty of medicine. However, osteopathic physicians receive an additional 300 to 500 hours in the study of hands-on manual medicine and the body's musculoskeletal system.

While DOs and MDs have many things in common, osteopathic medicine is a parallel branch of medicine with a distinct philosophy and approach to patient care. DOs can bring an extra dimension to your health care through their unique skills. Doctors of osteopathic medicine practice a "whole person" approach to health care. Instead of just treating your specific symptoms, or focusing on one body part, osteopathic physicians concentrate on treating you as a whole.

Osteopathic physicians understand how all the body’s systems are interconnected and how each one affects the others. They receive special training in the musculoskeletal system so that they better understand how that system influences the condition of all other body systems. In addition, DOs are trained to identify and correct structural problems, which can assist your body’s natural tendency toward health and self-healing.

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 doctors practice in all specialties of medicine, ranging from such primary care disciplines as family medicine, general internal medicine, and pediatrics to such specialized disciplines as surgery, oncology, and psychiatry A majority use many of the medical and surgical treatments that are used by other medical doctors.

Source: MedlinePlus and Colorado Society of Osteopathic Medicine

Note: This definition was prepared to help consumers find reliable health resources on the web. This site is not responsible for the information on other sites. The information here — and on all websites — is not intended to be a substitute for care given to you by a health professional.

Recommended Reading

Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine, American Osteopathic Association
This site includes FAQs about osteopathic medicine, information about a DO's education and training, and much more.

Colorado Society of Osteopathic Medicine
This site is for osteopathic professionals in Colorado and has some general information for the public.

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