Are Osteopaths Different Than MDs


An osteopath is sometimes also called an osteopathic physician, Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine or D.O. Osteopathic doctors generally believe in a more holistic approach to healthcare than traditional medical science. One of the main philosophies of osteopathic medicine is that the body is capable of healing itself given the correct conditions. Therefore, the osteopathic provider utilizes knowledge and techniques that help to create the ideal circumstances for true healing and improved general health.

This essay concentrates on the distinctions between doctors of osteopathy and medical doctors.

Osteopath History

The osteopathic profession dates back to Dr. Andrew T. Still. Dr. Still became interested in alternative medicine after his experiences as a surgeon during the Civil War. Dr. Still theorized that many health problems come from displaced bones or abnormal skeletal conditions. He opposed the use of drugs and surgery except in the most necessary and justifiable occasions.

This philosophy holds a similar ideology to that of chiropractic medicine. Today, true osteopathic doctors are a mix of traditional medical doctor and alternative healer. However, true embodiments of this profession are few and far between.

Osteopath Treatment

Osteopathic physicians employ several modalities of treatment. Physiotherapy and manual skeletal manipulation are almost universal in osteopathic medicine. These holistic treatments are designed to optimize the health of the physical anatomy and allow for all the body’s processes to continue without interruption.

An osteopathic doctor will also consider pharmaceutical treatment or even surgery, if the treatment is truly warranted.  However, these modalities are not considered ideal due to their risks and consequences on overall wellness.

Osteopath Theory

Osteopathic doctors have several common ideologies. They believe that the body is a machine that can be optimized through conservative treatments. They often believe that less treatment generally provides a better result. Osteopaths often integrate nutritional, occupational and emotional aspects into their treatment regimens.

There are many sub-specialties of osteopathy. Several of these are quite controversial and others border on pure speculation. In general, doctors of osteopathy fill the same roles as medical doctors, with less emphasis on external assistance and more emphasis on internal resolution of injury and disease. In this regard, the profession is very similar to Doctors of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Osteopath Experiences

It seems that as the years have gone by, the line between M.D. and D.O. has blurred considerably. Osteopathic physicians have prospered with certain ideologies, but faltered with others. The result of this is the propagation of some alternative osteopathic treatment with the integration of many traditional medical ideas and practices. Sometimes it is truly hard to tell the difference between the 2 types of doctors.

Many patients are suspicious of osteopathic doctors, since many of the outspoken and public personalities have some pretty far-out ideas. As with many professions, all it takes is a few really colorful characters to taint the entire lot.

Personally, I wish I saw more of a difference between medical and osteopathic doctors. Here in New York, there are multitudes of each and I have yet to see a big difference between them. Ok, I admit their ideologies might differ, but the bottom line of treatment is often scarily similar. I wonder if this might reinforce my speculation about the profit driven back pain industry and the economic motivation of medical science in general. I will leave it to you to decide.

Back Pain > Back Doctor > Osteopath

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