Medical Mondays: What is Osteopathic Medicine?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Time for another installment of Medical Monday with two of my favorite bloggers! I'm so excited to have the opportunity to co-host this blog hop today (especially since I totally spaced and didn't write a post last month).

With classes starting, I thought it would be the perfect time to (briefly) explain the difference between osteopathic and allopathic medicine. 

If you had no idea there were two branches of medicine in this country, you aren't alone. I had almost no idea about allopathic vs. osteopathic until I was already applying to medical school. The funny part? You might already see a DO physician and not even know it. My primary care physician as well as my OB/Gyn are both DOs!

First of all, I attend an osteopathic medical school which means at the end of my four years I will (hopefully) have "D.O." or "Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine" (not osteopathy) after my name instead of "MD" or "Doctor of Medicine." So what's the difference? Not much.

Way back in the day a guy named Andrew Taylor Still set out to radically change the practice of medicine by rejecting the traditional methods in the 19th Century. Medicine was a lot different in these days. Popular practices included blood letting, dangerous drug use, and risky procedures that often did more harm than good. There was also not a lot of formal medical education - often an apprenticeship lasting a non-standard period of time with no official curriculum was the norm.

One area that sets osteopathic medicine apart from an MD is Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (OMM). OMM can be described as manipulations of the musculoskeletal system to detect, treat, and cure disease or abnormalities of the body. He imagined the future of medicine to incorporate these manipulations while limiting surgical intervention and drug use. While DOs often reject this comparison, OMM can be compared to the skills a Chiropractor might use. One professor explained it to me this way: Chiropractors put you in normal alignment. DOs put you in YOUR normal alignment. It's all about finding your personal balance and achieving optimum health.

Another notable area of osteopathic medicine is an emphasis on holistic care of patients. A.T.Still emphasized the importance of considering the body as a whole unit - mind, body, and spirit - instead of seeing a person as a set of symptoms or a particular disease. Holistic healthcare and preventative medicine are both concepts that MDs accept and address so there is very little difference between the two now.

So what does this all mean? It means that in addition to all the classes MDs take, I also spend a few hours a week learning OMM in lecture and lab. (AKA getting REALLY close with your classmates quickly - hello palpation skills. We're already walking around in sports bras and shorts). Other than that, I learn EVERYTHING that MDs do. I have the opportunity to take the same board exams, apply for the same residencies, perform surgery, prescribe meds, etc. Nearly everything is that same - I just have the choice to use an additional tool for the treatment of my patients.

...and that's my mini spiel about Osteopathic Medicine! If you have ANY questions at all, please email me or leave a comment! I may turn your questions into a new post or two because it's impossible to explain the history succinctly. I love my school and I'm so proud to be studying osteopathic medicine. Now for the blog hop!

Are you confused if you qualify for the party?

If you have a pager interrupting your life... you DEFINITELY qualify!
Do you work in healthcare?
Doctor? Nurse? EMT? Chiropractor? Vet? Dentist? Therapist?
Are you the spouse or SO of a healthcare worker/student?
Are you a nursing student? Medical student?
Intern? Resident? Fellow?

You get the picture, right? Come on, now... don't be shy! Let's keep growing and meeting new bloggers, so we can build a community of support and friendship, learn from one another, and share our stories.


Here are the rules:
  1. Follow your co-hosts via Bloglovin, GFC (if you are Blogger), FB, email or Twitter.
  2. Link up you medical/med life blog. If your blog name does not clearly state how you fit in to the med/med life world, please write a little intro or link up a specific post which clearly demonstrates your connection.
  3. Visit at least 3 other link ups, comment, introduce yourself, and tell the your stopping by or following from MM!
  4. Help spread the word by using our button on your post or sidebar, tweet about Medical Monday, or spread the word on Facebook! The more the merrier for all of us.
Complete step one by following your co-hosts:
Want to be awesome?
Post our button on you post or sidebar and help spread the word:

Want to co-host next month? Shoot Emma an email at and be sure to write "Medical Monday Co-host Request" in the subject field.

Now, link up below and have fun! The link up is open through Friday, so be sure to come back during the week to check some great reads!


  1. What an interesting post! I've always wondered what the difference was besides the history of their development. Good luck obtaining your DO letters :)

  2. I found this really interesting! Thank you!
    ~Ashley @ A Cute Angle

  3. Fascinating. We don't have D.O. in South Africa, but it sounds pretty awesome.

  4. I want to join in! :)

  5. Amy@medicineandmartinisSeptember 3, 2013 at 9:16 AM

    What a great recap on OM! You are right, it is so easy to get confused or to not know that type of medicine is different. Hope you are enjoying cohosting this month!

  6. Honestly, I never have gone to a DO but now I will. I like the idea of finding one's perfect balance. Thanks for the article, the things one can learn, when they read.

  7. Love the breakdown! I don't know if you take "requests" for topics, but how do you feel about how many patients doctors have to cram into their daily schedules? I went to the doctor on Friday, and I don't think the doctor looked at me once :(. I know everyone has to see tons of patients, but dang!