What is a D.O.?

When you go to the doctor, you can often get confused as to who is treating you. D.O., M.D., D.C., P.A., and APRN are all medically licensed professionals that can treat you. However, there are only two types of physicians, D.O. (Doctor of Osteopath) and M.D. (Medical Doctor). D.O.s and M.D.s are both highly educated, fully trained and have taken the prescribed amount of pre-medical training. As well, have graduated from an undergraduate college (bachelor’s degree), and then received their medical degree after 4 of more years of medical school. Some physicians participate in residency programs for an additional 2-6 years.

Whether your doctor is a D.O. or M.D. the route of medical education and training is basically the same. Both use all scientifically accepted methods of diagnosis and treatments, and are licensed to prescribe medication. Residency trained D.O. and M.D.s can also perform surgery.

The differences between the two are: the philosophy and the approach to the delivery of health care. Osteopathic physicians (D.O.s) emphasis is more comprehensive and deals with the treatment of the whole person not just a body area, disease, or system. They recognize that all body areas are interdependent, and a disturbance in one body system can cause altered functions in the other systems of the body. Therefore the D.O. treats the entire person. Another difference between D.O. and M.D. is that the D.O. is trained in the use of manipulation therapy in the treatment of their patients.

The Osteopathic Physician in comparisons to the Medical Doctor is in the minority. However over 20 million Americans turn to Osteopathic Physicians for comprehensive medical care yearly.

Other Healthcare Professionals include Chiropractors, D.C., they also do manipulation but are limited in that they are not trained or licensed to prescribe medication or perform surgery.

Nurse Practitioners (APRN) and Physician Assistants (P.A.) are both licensed to treat patients and usually work closely with a M.D. and a D.O. Both are not trained to do manipulations.

In Summary:

  • D.O.s , M.D.s , and D.C.s can diagnose and treat patients.
  • D.O.s , M.D.s can both prescribe medications and do surgery; D.C.s cannot.
  • D.O.s & D.C.s can do manipulation; M.D.s cannot.