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Osteopathic Medicine

Osteopathic Medicine: Is It the Right Treatment for You?

There can often be confusion about different types of medicine, practices, and providers. It’s best to understand the terminology to determine the right treatment for you. For example, the field of osteopathic medicine takes a “whole person” approach to patient care. This method is about treating the entire person rather than just the symptoms. DOs, or Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine, focus on preventive care. They practice medicine according to the latest science and technology but also consider options to complement pharmaceuticals and surgery. Osteopathic philosophy understands the interrelated unity of the body systems and how they can work together to heal.

Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine practice in all medical specialties, including primary care, pediatrics, OB/GYN, emergency medicine, psychiatry, anesthesiology, and surgery. This type of medicine utilizes holistic pain management strategies. Choosing a physician trained in osteopathic care is a personal choice.

The Difference Between DOs and MDs

A Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) is a fully trained and licensed doctor who has attended and graduated from a United States osteopathic medical school. A Doctor of Medicine (MD) has attended and graduated from a conventional or allopathic medical school. One is not better than another. Both doctors are fully trained and licensed, with quality patient care being the number one goal.

Perhaps not everyone understands how well-trained and qualified DOs are. Comedian Hasan Minhaj experienced repercussions when poking fun at DOs during a performance on late-night TV. In his routine, Minhaj mischaracterized DOs, referring to them as “off-brand doctors.” The clip was quickly circulated throughout the medical community, prompting outrage from DOs and MDs alike.

Because of this type of misconception, DO’s do not always receive the same amount of acceptance as their MD colleagues. For example, a well-known producer of medical scrubs calledFIGS offended DOs in an advertising video they created. The video appeared to mock DOs as if they were not medically knowledgeable. The backlash on social media culminated with FIGS vowing to make a $100,000 donation to the American Osteopathic Association.

The medical community recognizes the benefits of both types of doctors. While similarities include extensive education and training for both DOs and MDs, the difference between these two types of doctors is that DOs view the patient more holistically to reach a diagnosis rather than treating symptoms alone. Some DOs may use manual medicine therapies, such as spinal manipulation or massage therapy, as part of their treatment. Their education includes special training in the musculoskeletal system, your body’s interconnected system of nerves, muscles, and bones. Their training allows them to combine holistic knowledge with scientific advances in medicine.

MDs, on the other hand, practice allopathic medicine, the classical form of medicine, focused on diagnosing and treating human diseases.

After medical school, both MDs and DOs must complete residency training in their chosen specialties. They must also pass the same licensing examination before they can treat people and prescribe medications.

MDs and DOs are both capable of seeing patients, prescribing medicine, and doing surgeries.

According to the latest statistics, there are approximately 800,000 practicing physicians in the U.S. today. Roughly 50,000 of these physicians are DOs. MDs make up the remaining 750,000.

However, the balance of MDs and DOs is changing. One-quarter of medical students currently in training in the U.S. now are DO students. While MD is a more commonplace degree for medicine, more and more students are becoming interested in osteopathic medicine.

Contact National Spine & Pain Centers to schedule an appointment with an affiliated pain specialist today.

Education and Experience

Doctors of osteopathic medicine complete four years of medical school, with an emphasis on preventive medicine and comprehensive patient care. Upon graduating from medical school, DOs complete internships, residencies, and fellowships. This training lasts three to eight years and prepares them to become licensed and board-certified.

Osteopathic Medicine for Back Pain

Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine utilize holistic therapies for back pain and non-invasive pain management.

Osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM) is a comprehensive approach to healthcare, in which DOs apply osteopathic philosophy, structural diagnosis, and the use of osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) in the diagnosis and management of patients.

This is the additional training DOs receive as part of their osteopathic medical school studies — instruction that educates them about manipulating the musculoskeletal system. This training allows them to take a comprehensive approach, looking at the whole patient, including the body, activity level and exercise regimen, diet, mental and physical health, sleep habits, stress levels, lifestyle, and environmental factors, to determine a diagnosis and treatment. OMM helps the physician see how injury or illness in one area of the body can affect another. While DOs are commonly treating muscle or joint pain, OMM can be used to treat a myriad of issues like headaches, arthritis, and sports injuries.

Upon assessing the problem or problems, the DO can determine the cause and design the most appropriate interventions. There are approximately 40 major types of osteopathic manipulative treatments and more than 1,000 individual techniques. Your doctor may use one or several to alleviate the issues causing you pain.

If you are experiencing back or neck pain, DOs will use their hands to determine the nature of your back or neck issues, possibly moving, stretching, or applying pressure when needed. Your DO may use slow, continuous pressure or quick, sudden manipulations. You may be placed in different positions, which may feel awkward, or asked to hold and release your breath to get the most from the technique. The treatment encourages your body to heal itself by ensuring that your bones and muscles are aligned and balanced properly.

More and more doctors, whether they are DOs or MDs, understand the mind-body connection and the psychological impacts of chronic pain. That’s why the affiliated pain management specialists at National Spine & Pain Centers encourage you to book an appointment to diagnose and treat your pain with the goal of getting you back to a higher quality of life.

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