What is Osteopathic Medicine?

Osteopathic medicine is a distinctive pathway to medical practice in the United States. Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) are fully licensed physicians with a medical degree and post-doctoral residency training (3-7+ years) that enables them to practice in any medical specialty.

In addition to receiving the same medical training as other physicians, osteopathic medical students are trained in osteopathic principles and practice and 200+ hours of osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM). OMM is a hands-on approach to the diagnosis and treatment of patients and has been proven effective in treating multiple injuries and illnesses and decreasing complications and length of hospital stays.

The difference between DO and MD

Osteopathic Medicine History

Osteopathic medicine was founded by Andrew Taylor Still, MD, DO, in the late 1800s in Kirksville, Missouri. He recognized that the medical practices of the day often caused more harm than good. He focused on developing a system of medical care that would promote the body’s innate ability to heal itself and called this system of medicine osteopathy, now known as osteopathic medicine.

DOs are trained to look at the whole person from their first days of medical school, which means they see each person as more than just a collection of organ systems and body parts that may become injured or diseased. This holistic focus on patient care means that osteopathic medical students learn how to integrate the patient into the healthcare process as a partner.

According to the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, osteopathic medicine is a distinct form of medical practice in the United States. Osteopathic medicine provides all of the benefits of modern medicine including prescription drugs, surgery, and the use of technology to diagnose disease and evaluate injury. It also offers the added benefit of hands-on diagnosis and treatment through osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM) therapy. Osteopathic medicine emphasizes helping each person achieve a high level of wellness by focusing on health promotion and disease prevention.

The osteopathic medical profession has a proud heritage of producing primary care practitioners. In fact, the mission statements of the majority of osteopathic medical schools state plainly that their purpose is the production of primary care physicians. Osteopathic medical tradition preaches that a strong foundation in primary care makes one a better physician, regardless of what specialty they may eventually practice.

DOs are complete, fully trained, licensed physicians capable of prescribing medications and performing surgeries. Many DOs incorporate OMM into their care, using their hands to diagnose illness and injury to encourage your body to heal itself. By combining all other appropriate medical options with OMM, DOs offer their patients the most comprehensive care available in medicine today.

Helpful Links

American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine
The American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) was founded in 1898 to lend support and assistance to the nation's osteopathic medical schools, and to serve as a unifying voice for osteopathic medical education. The organization today represents the administration, faculty, and students of all of the osteopathic medical colleges in the United States, and is actively involved in all areas of osteopathic medical education.

American Osteopathic Association
Representing more than 70,000 osteopathic physicians around the world, the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) serves as the professional family for all DOs and osteopathic medical students. In addition to serving as the primary certifying body for DOs, the AOA is the accrediting agency for all osteopathic medical colleges and healthcare facilities.

Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation
The American Osteopathic Association’s Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation (COCA) is recognized by the United States Department of Education (USDE) as the only accreditation agency for predoctoral osteopathic medical education in the United States.

Indiana Osteopathic Association
The Indiana Osteopathic Association (IOA) is the only organization dedicated to improving the health of all Hoosiers and to making Indiana the best possible place to practice osteopathic medicine.

* Information provided by AACOM and AOA.


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