It's easy to recognize physicians just by reading their names. After all,
they have the letters MD after their names, right? But what if you see the
letters DO? You might be surprised to learn that this is an abbreviation for
another type of physician.
Perhaps you aren't sure whether your child currently sees a DO (a doctor of
osteopathic medicine; an osteopathic physician) or an MD (a doctor of medicine).
Your main concern is that your child receives excellent medical care, and both
MDs and DOs are good choices when it comes to your child's
What's a DO?
According to the
American Osteopathic Association (AOA), osteopathic medicine is a complete
system of healthcare with a philosophy that combines the needs of the patient
with the current practice of medicine. Doctors of osteopathic
medicine (DOs) practice a whole-person approach, which means they consider
both the physical and mental needs of their patients.
This "holistic" approach to healthcare was actually developed by an American
MD. Dr. Andrew Taylor Still feared that 19th-century medicine was doing more
harm than good. Disgusted at the ineffectiveness of fellow practitioners during
the Civil War, he decided to focus on the body's ability to heal itself and
began to stress preventive medicine. He also identified the musculoskeletal
system as a key element of health, stressing that muscles, nerves, bones,
and organs are all interrelated. In 1892, Dr. Still founded the American School
of Osteopathy in Kirksville, Missouri.
A key part of
osteopathic medicine is a technique called OMT, or osteopathic manipulative
treatment. OMT allows physicians to use their hands as a primary tool to
diagnose and treat illness and injury. This form of manual medicine lets DOs
examine the back and other parts of the body, such as joints, tendons,
ligaments, and muscles, for pain and restriction during motion that could signal
an injury or impaired function.
Although they sometimes focus on the back, these physicians are not
chiropractors. OMT is a treatment very specific to how and where humans injure
themselves and how that injury can manifest itself as symptoms.