Osteopathy

Topic Overview

What is osteopathy?

Osteopathy emphasizes overall health and the relation among the body's nerves, muscles, bones, and organs. Doctors of osteopathy (DOs) base diagnosis and treatment on the idea that the body's systems are interconnected. Instead of treating specific symptoms or illnesses, DOs regard and treat the body as an integrated whole. Osteopathic medicine focuses on disease prevention and health maintenance.

Osteopathic doctors must complete basic medical education from an accredited college of osteopathic medicine. Accreditation is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council on Postsecondary Education. Like medical doctors (MDs), DOs must complete an internship and residency program after their basic medical education. DOs can prescribe medicine and do surgery.

What is osteopathy used for?

Doctors of osteopathy may serve as primary care providers. DOs can prescribe medicines, order medical tests such as X-rays, and do surgery. DOs often provide treatment in a hospital. More than half of all osteopathic doctors practice in primary care areas, such as with children (pediatrics), pregnant women (obstetrics), women's health (gynecology), or general adult health (internal medicine).

Some osteopathic doctors use hands-on manipulation of bones and muscles, or osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT), in their training and practice. OMT allows osteopathic doctors to use their hands to diagnose injury and illness and to promote healing.

Is osteopathy safe?

Osteopathic medicine is a safe, established practice of medicine. Like MDs, DOs must pass a state medical board examination to obtain a license in order to enter practice. Each state board sets its own requirements and then issues the license for the osteopathic doctor to practice in that state.

If you are interested in choosing a DO as your primary care provider, check his or her education, license, and experience. Recommendations from family members, friends, or other health professionals may be helpful.

Always tell your doctor if you are using an alternative therapy or if you are thinking about combining an alternative therapy with your conventional medical treatment. It may not be safe to forgo your conventional medical treatment and rely only on an alternative therapy.

Credits

Author Shannon Erstad, MBA/MPH
Editor Kathleen M. Ariss, MS
Associate Editor Pat Truman, MATC
Primary Medical Reviewer William M. Green, MD - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Robert B. Keller, MD - Orthopedics
Last Updated February 3, 2010

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