What an Osteopathic Doctor Can Add to Your Treatment Plan

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Many people think of an osteopathic doctor (DO) as an alternative practitioner to a medical doctor (MD). In other words, you would choose one or the other for your primary care physician. However, both MDs and DOs can play a role in your overall medical treatment plan as complements to one another. And the two types of physicians have unique viewpoints that can improve your overall health.

Comparing MDs and DOs

In many ways, MDs and DOs are similar doctors. Each can specialize in virtually any field of medicine, from internal medicine to pediatrics to rheumatology; perform surgery; and prescribe medication. And both can use the most up-to-date technology available in medicine.

It’s the philosophy toward medicine that differs, and this is the reason why you might consider seeing a DO. Regardless of any specialty, the osteopathic physician considers the whole person and how a variety of factors, both physical and mental, might be influencing his or her overall health and well-being. 

For example, a DO who focuses on obstetrics and gynecology will likely consider how stress and lifestyle factors like diet and nutrition could be impacting a woman’s ability to get pregnant. A DO who is an internist might investigate how those same factors are impacting the digestive system or heart health. 

If you've been seeing an MD for a health issue, the global view of the osteopathic physician can broaden the approach to your care. If you have some concerns about the treatment you're currently receiving, a DO’s perspective can provide a second opinion.

Understanding OMT

Another clear-cut way that DOs differ from MDs is in their practice of osteopathic manipulative treatment, or OMT. When appropriate, DOs use their hands to perform gentle stretches, apply pressure, add resistance, or do other manipulations.

Osteopathic physicians may use OMT not only to treat medical problems but also to diagnose or even prevent some of them. OMT can help aching muscles as well as migraine headaches, breathing problems, clogged sinuses, menstrual cramps, and painful hands and wrists, to name just a few. It’s yet another way that an osteopathic physician can complement the care you receive from your primary care physician.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 Sep 12
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

  1. Frequently Asked Questions. American Osteopathic Association. http://www.osteopathic.org/osteopathic-health/about-dos/about-osteopathic-medicine/Pages/frequently-... 

  2. What Is Osteopathic Medicine? American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine. http://www.aacom.org/become-a-doctor/about-om 

  3. What Is a DO? American Osteopathic Association. http://www.osteopathic.org/osteopathic-health/about-dos/what-is-a-do/Pages/default.aspx 

  4. Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment. American Osteopathic Association. http://www.osteopathic.org/osteopathic-health/treatment/Pages/default.aspx