“To find health is the object of the physician; anyone can find disease.”
Andrew Taylor Still MD, DO, founder of osteopathy
WHAT IS OSTEOPATHY?
Osteopathic medicine is a patient-focused approach to health care that takes into account every aspect of the patient, including his or her physical, personal, and spiritual well-being. Developed more than 130 years ago by Andrew Taylor Still, MD, DO, osteopathic medicine brings a unique philosophy to traditional patient care. Understanding that the body is more than just a sum of its parts, osteopathic physicians (DOs) assist the patient’s innate capacity to heal by addressing the interrelationship of the body’s nerves, muscles, bones and organs. Osteopathic physicians are licensed to prescribe medicine and practice in all medical and surgical specialties and subspecialties.
Although osteopathic medicine is preferred over osteopathy to refer to the complete system of medical care practiced by DOs in the United States, the American Academy of Osteopathy retains the older nomenclature to remain connected to its history and to connect with clinicians around the world who practice osteopathic manipulation.
WHAT IS OSTEOPATHIC MANIPULATIVE TREATMENT (OMT)?
For any medical condition, osteopathic physicians understand that each individual expresses health and disease differently and that the absence of disease does not imply the presence of health. Therefore, osteopathic physicians are trained to recognize changes in body structure that alter function which may contribute to “dis-ease.” In addition to managing medical conditions with pills or surgery, DOs are trained in osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT). OMT is the therapeutic application of manual techniques by an osteopathic physician to address the changes in body structure to improve physiologic function.
OMT techniques range from gentle palpation to high-pressure or rapid, forceful manipulation.
WHO CAN BENEFIT FROM OMT?
People of all ages, from newborns to senior adults, can benefit from osteopathic manipulative treatment. Applying OMT to muscles, joints and other tissues allows the body to achieve a state of health more quickly and easily. OMT can be helpful in a wide range of clinical conditions, from alleviating pain to shortening hospital recovery time, improving childhood asthma and infant colic.
OMT also can help patients with a vast number of other health problems such as:
ear and sinus disorders
carpal tunnel syndrome
irritable bowel syndrome
low back pain
What is the difference between a D.O. and an MD?
To understand why approximately 25,000,000 Americans choose osteopathic physicians (DOs) it is important to look at the similarities between the MDs & DOs – and then the differences. The time spent in medical school and residency programs is virtually identical for DOs and MDs. DOs spend four years in medical school, followed by a year-long rotating internship. If they choose to specialize, residency programs are available in the full range of specialties – such as surgery, radiology, psychiatry, anesthesiology, and family medicine. Both MDs and DOs must take state licensing exams to become practicing physicians. It is the focus within the medical training that the differences between DOs and MDs start to appear.
Osteopathic medical education places more emphasis on preventive medicine, body structure, osteopathic manipulation and the importance of family practice. More than 75% of the DOs in the United States are in family practice, as opposed to only 25% of the MDs. Osteopathic physicians are more likely to view a patient as a whole person, taking into account not just the physical symptoms – but also the lifestyle, the emotional well-being, and the environment. This philosophical debate on whether to focus on the patient’s disease or the total patient precedes DOs and MDs. It goes back to the beginnings of medical history when Hippocrates, the “father of medicine,” believed in focusing on the patient. The rival philosophy focused only on the disease itself.
Finally, the differences are highlighted when it comes to treatment. Osteopathic physicians, also trained in the use of drugs and surgery, believe strongly in the self-regulating, self-healing, and self-repairing ability of the body. DOs are more likely to promote the body’s own ability to heal itself through means that are safe, non-intrusive, and with as few side effects possible. Osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM) is often used as a primary healing tool. Many patients choose DOs because they are more comfortable with the philosophies and treatments of osteopathy. Others may not be as aware of the difference in medical philosophies, but they return to DO’s again and again. For these patients, the reason is simple. It works.
What is the difference between an Osteopathic Physician and a Chiropractor?
SCOPE OF PRACTICE
The primary differences between an osteopathic physician and a chiropractor are their levels of training and the scope of their practice. A chiropractor is not a fully licensed medical physician, and is not required to have completed residency training in a hospital. The scope of chiropractic practice is defined by statute as “including the diagnosing and locating of misaligned or displaced vertebrae and, through manual manipulation and adjustment of the spine and other skeletal structures, treating disorders of the human body. The practice of chiropractic does not include the use of drugs or surgery, or the practice of osteopathy, obstetrics, or any other branch of medicine.”
Chiropractic is primarily concerned with normalizing the alignment of the spine to influence the relationship between the spinal column and the nervous system. In this way, the chiropractor endeavors to influence the physiologic function of all of the organs and systems within the body. Although their techniques have expanded somewhat in recent years to include more gentle techniques, the vast majority of chiropractic adjustments are still of the thrust variety. Chiropractors also often rely on x-rays for their evaluations.
Osteopathic manipulative medicine is based upon the principle that the human body possesses self-healing and self-regulating mechanisms that are the source of true healing. The focus in treatment, therefore, goes beyond simple spinal alignment – to dealing directly with the abnormal body physiology using a array of direct and indirect techniques. This more holistic healthcare perspective affords the osteopath a broader spectrum of therapeutic options in addition to thrust techniques – among which are myofascial release, muscle energy, counterstrain, visceral manipulation, osteopathy in the cranial field, and biodynamics. DOs do not routinely use x-rays for their osteopathic diagnoses, preferring hands-on palpation over imaging.