Most people have heard of or seen the initials D.O., but most do not know what they mean or understand the difference between a D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) and M.D. (Medical Doctor). Both are fully qualified doctors licensed to prescribe medication and perform surgery, both complete four years of medical education, both obtain medical education through internships, residencies, and fellowships, and both can practice in any specialty of medicine.
The biggest difference between a D.O. and an M.D. lies in their perception of the human organism and its health or lack thereof. An M.D. has been trained to treat you for a specific symptom or illness, and views symptoms in disparate parts of the body as separate, largely unrelated disease states. The D.O., on the other hand, is trained to view your body as an integrated whole as it relates to your health and wellbeing. D.O.’s receive an additional 300-500 hours of training in the musculoskeletal system, which is the body’s interconnected system of muscles, bones, and nerves that makes up two thirds of your body mass. This gives the D.O. knowledge and training to better understand how one part of your body can affect many other parts, thus finding the cause of illness, rather than merely treating the symptom or specific illness. A good example of this would be the case of the narrowing of your nerve pathway in your lower back affecting your hips, knees, ankles, and even causing pain in your toes. Most medical doctors would focus on the leg pain as a discrete event and likely prescribe painkillers and anti-inflammatories. A D.O. would focus on what is causing the leg pain.
One of the main types of treatment a D.O. can or will use is osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT). OMT is basically hands on care that involves using hands to diagnose, and prevent illness or injury to make sure your body is moving freely. This free motion ensures that all of your body’s natural healing systems are able to work unhindered. A D.O. will manipulate muscles and joints using techniques that include stretching, gentle pressure and resistance.
One of the beneficial aspects of OMT is it can help people of all ages and backgrounds. The treatment can be used to ease pain, promote healing and increase overall mobility. OMT is often used to treat muscle pain. But it can also help patients with a number of other health problems such as:
- sinus disorders
- carpal tunnel syndrome
- menstrual pain
When appropriate, OMT can complement, and even replace, drugs or surgery. In this way, OMT brings an important dimension to standard medical care. As I continue on my path for total overall health I have found the above dimension to be very important. As a former FDA employee I have witnessed first hand how the drug companies manipulate both doctors and patients to increase their bottom line. We continue to see the detrimental effects of the so-called harmless lifestyle drugs, such as statins and diet pills. A simple statistic indicates how the drug companies have greatly influenced the shameful decline of American’s health: according to a medical expert on Fox News in June 2011 80% of all pain medications prescribed in the world are taken by Americans. Not only are we overweight and generally unhealthy, but it appears we are addicted to powerful prescription drugs. What better way to reverse this trend than going to see a D.O. for a holistic approach when it comes to your health.
Of course I’m not recommending that you never see an M.D., but I think having another option in your healthcare arsenal is critical. D.O.’s have been around for over 135 years, and they offer a blend of today’s medical technology and training with the enduring traditions of treating patients as a whole person.
About the author
Mr. Collins (MS) worked for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for nearly a decade. In addition, he is a specialist in fitness and nutrition, a certified fitness trainer, member of the International Sports Science Association, member of the American Society for Nutrition, member of the IDEA Health and Fitness Association, member of the Weston A. Price Foundation and member of the Price-Pottinger Nutrition Foundation. Collins completed 13 years of service in the United States Military and is a proud veteran. For full bio click here.
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