Osteopathic Medicine Overview
The ideas and practices of osteopathic medicine are not to be confused with the practice of chiropractic care. The two practices do share some philosophical similarities between osteopathic doctors and chiropractors—but there are also still distinctions.
Osteopathic physicians (DOs) practice a specialized form of medicine. While they are able to follow and utilize many modern methods of medical care, such as providing prescriptions and surgery, they also can offer patients the option of receiving osteopathic manipulative medicine. The overall philosophy focuses on helping patients achieve wellness through the primary focal points of the prevention of disease whenever possible and the maintenance of a healthy lifestyle. The osteopathic doctor will look at the person holistically, not just as separate organs and body parts but instead as a series of parts that function as a unit, or the body is treated as a whole.
In terms of training, osteopathic doctors attend medical school and take 200 extra hours in osteopathic manipulative medicine. This specialized practice functions through a system of techniques that are hands-on, and that not only restores motion, but DOs also alleviate pain, and they help the body function more efficiently.1
Doctor of Osteopathy vs. MD
From the beginning of the history of osteopathic medicine, Andrew Taylor Still rejected the medical mindset that medicine could only treat effects rather than treat the root causes of disease. He relied on joint and bone manipulation to treat his patients’ illnesses. Modern osteopathic medicine is more mainstream now. Though they still use osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM), not all DOs use this method in daily practice.
The distinction between DO and traditional MD is less than it used to be, with the line between the two methods of healing becoming more blurred. Osteopathic medical students take the Osteopathic Oath, which suggests the person is a holistic unit (spirit, mind, and body), the body itself has the ability to self-regulate and self-heal, and structures and functions of the body are interrelated. This oath suggests DOs are similar in approach to holistic medicine. However, the training between DOs and MDs is actually very similar.
Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT) is sometimes still practiced by DOs, but a 2001 survey showed that it was not used regularly, and that prescriptions and surgery were more routinely used. This means that DOs have become increasingly similar in their choices of treatment method to MDs. Manual therapy, though, is an even safer and, in many cases, more effective treatment modality. OMM can be used to treat problems other than back pain. One particular technique is crano-sacral manipulation, as an example.2
DO vs. Doctor of Chiropractic
While DOs and Doctor of Chiropractic (DCs) are both doctors, their training have some variations. Osteopathy is based on the theory that diseases are caused by the loss of structural integrity between the different aspects of the whole patient, and this loss of integrity is something which can be resolved through the manipulation of the parts and also supplemented by therapeutic measures. Chiropractic suggests that disease comes from a loss or degeneration of normal nerve function, which can be helped by chiropractic manipulation and specific adjustments performed on certain body structures, generally focused in the spinal region, to restore function or, in some cases, halt further degeneration.
DOs take a state medical board exam, and they earn their licenses to practice just like MDs. They are able to perform surgery and prescribe medication. In contrast, chiropractors have 2-4 years undergraduate and 4 years post-graduate studies, and the focus is more on manipulation and clinical sciences. They cannot perform surgery or prescribe drugs, which is something patients should keep in mind if they ever come across a chiropractor who is attempting to do either of the aforementioned activities. Chiropractors can, however, make other types of recommendations for their patients to consider. The osteopathic manipulation involves myofascial treatment, and they also promote lymphatic circulation. They may use high velocity and low amplitude force techniques. Chiropractors often use HVLA as well.3
Other Chiropractic Techniques
Chiropractors have many other techniques they can employ, such as electrical stimulation, physiotherapy, soft tissue mobilization, and joint adjustment. Some treatments might include the use of non-surgical instruments while others are performed solely by hand and physical manipulation.4 Some chiropractors also integrate alternative care into their methods of treatment, such as acupuncture and massage. Chiropractic, from the beginning of its founding with Daniel David Palmer in 1895, has held the belief that the body can and will heal itself if the damaged structure and improper function are corrected. While chiropractors do not prescribe medications, they may recommend over-the-counter herbal remedies and vitamins. They can treat sciatica, joint problems, low back pain, headaches, spinal disk conditions, osteoarthritis, tendon and ligament issues, sprains and strains, carpal tunnel syndrome, and more. Spinal manipulation, physiotherapy, and nutrition are all practiced in chiropractic care.5
Learn more about osteopathy…