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Osteopathic medicine was developed over 100 years ago by Dr. Andrew Taylor Still, MD. During that time, medicine was still quite barbaric and Dr. Still become despondent over his medical training when he lost three of his children to meningitis. Consequently, he spent a great deal of time researching and developed a new approach to medicine that included exercise, nutrition, and spinal manipulation. He called his new system of healing osteopathic medicine. Today, osteopathic medicine has evolved into a unique form of medical care. One can tell if their doctor practices osteopathic medicine by their medical degree. An osteopathic physician has a DO degree, which stands for doctor of osteopathic medicine. An allopathic physician will have an MD degree, which stands for doctor of medicine. Many people have seen the DO degree at their doctor's office or in the hospital but still do not know the difference between the DO and the MD. Although they both have similar medical training, there are distinct differences between the two types of physicians. Like an MD, a DO has to complete four years of college, take the medical college admission test, attend four years of medical school and then complete a residency program in a particular medical specialty. A DO is a medical doctor just like an MD, but with extra training in osteopathic medicine. Included within this extra training is osteopathic manipulative medicine. This is a form of manual medicine that attempts to balance the body through the musculoskeletal system. In addition, the osteopathic physician is taught a different philosophy of medicine. Osteopathic medicine considers the human body to be an integrated unit and the prevention of illness is as important as the treatment of illness.
Like an MD, a DO is a licensed medial doctor and can perform surgery, prescribe medications, and specialize in any field. The difference between the two is the extra training that the DO receives in osteopathic medicine and their approach to the patient. There is nothing an MD can do that a DO can not. However, the DO can treat the patient with osteopathic medicine in addition to standard medical treatments. The MD can only use standard medical treatments.
Because many osteopathic physicians use spinal manipulation when treating their patients, many have assumed that they were similar to chiropractors. This is certainly not the case. A chiropractor is not a licensed medical doctor. A chiropractor is only licensed to perform spinal manipulation. An osteopathic physician is a licensed medical doctor who is trained in all forms of modern medical treatments including medications and surgery. Their training in manipulations is in addition to their standard medical training. In other words, an osteopathic physician is a medical doctor who can also manipulate the musculoskeletal system.
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