Developed by Andrew Still in 1874, osteopathy has built a tradition of bringing health care to where it is needed most. Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O. or DO) is a professional doctoral degree for physicians and surgeons. Holders of the D.O. degree have become licensed as osteopathic physicians who have equivalent rights, privileges, and responsibilities as physicians with a Doctor of Medicine degree (MD), including prescribing medicines and even performing surgery. The first two years of a four year course at medical school focuses on the biomedical and clinical sciences, followed by two years of core clinical training. Upon leaving medical school, D.O. graduates may enter internship or residency training programs, which may also be followed by fellowship training. In addition, D.O. training adds 300–500 hours studying philosophically based techniques for hands-on manipulation of the human musculoskeletal system, known as osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM) or osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT), similar in many ways to chiropractic treatments.
Osteopaths differ from MDs in that they:
- believe that all parts of the body work together and influence one another. DOs are specially trained in the nervous system and the musculoskeletal system (muscles and bones).
- are trained to perform OMT. With the patient sitting or lying down, the DO will gently apply a precise amount of manual pressure in a specific direction. The pressure is applied either directly on the affected area or at some body part a distance away. It is used to put the tissues at ease (relaxed) or to engage them at their functional limit in order to effect the following:
- Treat structural and tissue abnormalities (vertebrae, muscles, myofascial structures, etc.)
- Relieve joint restriction and misalignment
- Restore muscle and tissue balance
- Promote the movement of bodily fluids
They are similar to MDS in that:
- Students entering both DO and MD medical colleges typically have already completed four-year bachelor's degrees with an emphasis on scientific courses.
- Both DOs and MDs complete four years of medical school.
- After medical school, both DOs and MDs obtain graduate medical education through internships, residencies and fellowships.
- Both DOs and MDs can choose to practice in any specialty of medicine such as pediatrics, family medicine, or psychiatry.
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