Osteopathic medicine is a unique system of health care that incorporates all modern medical knowledge, from medicine to surgery, while maintaining the view that we, as doctors, are treating people, not diseases. Osteopathy focuses on healthy lifestyle and preventative measures to maintain health, rather than merely treating disease after it occurs. In addition to learning all of modern medicine, osteopathic physicians also learn hands on manipulation of the body, to aide in the treatment of numerous disorders of the patient. Graduates of osteopathic medical schools are granted the title of DO (Doctor of Osteopathy) and go through four years of training in medical school followed by three to seven years of post graduate residency training (the same amount as MD medical doctors). Doctors of Osteopathy can be licensed in any medical specialty in the United States.
Osteopathic medicine was founded in 1874 by Andrew Taylor Still MD. A civil war physician and surgeon, he was displeased with the system of medicine at that time which included numerous toxic remedies such as blood letting and mercury. Realizing that maximizing the function of the musculoskeletal system can enhance not only the function of the body but also the overall general health of the patient, he opened the first school in 1892 in Kirksville, Missouri.
A common question asked is how osteopathy differs from chiropractic care. Chiropractic schools started about five years after osteopathic. The first major difference is Doctors of Osteopathy learn all of modern medicine, as explained above, which can aide in the diagnosis and treatment of patients. Osteopathy firmly believes the body can heal itself and does not require maintenance body work to stay healthy if you are feeling well. Osteopaths are usually a little more thorough with each treatment, evaluating the entire body from head to toe (not just focusing on the spine). Typically the time spent with the patient for evaluation, treatment and devising a home exercise program is more extensive. Osteopathic manipulation is often more gentle than chiropractic, with less "cracking" techniques involved.
To find an osteopathic physician that uses manipulation near you click here and use the physician finder in the upper left corner of the American Academy of Osteopathy's website.