What is a DO?

A ‘DO’ is a Doctor of Osteopathy, also known as ‘Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine’. ‘DOs’ and ‘MDs’ are the two groups of physicians in the United States with unlimited licensure. What that means to you is that the doctor you see for primary care/family medicine or the specialist you see for specific problems – from cardiologists to surgeons or any other specialty – may be a ‘DO’ or an ‘MD’. ‘DOs’ have the same degree of training and the same training requirements as ‘MDs’. Many ‘DOs’ train in some of the most prestigious hospital/resident training programs in the country. Students in both career tracks have graduated from a four year college or university before starting medical training. Both groups train for four years before getting their doctoral degree. They then spend from three to six additional years in residency training for a total of eleven to fourteen years of training (after high school) before going into practice in their specialty. Both groups can prescribe drugs, and with the appropriate residency training, do surgery, care for patients in intensive care in the hospital or any other thing for which you might consult a physician.

So what is the difference between the two groups of physicians? All ‘DOs’ get additional training in diagnosis and treatment of the muscles, bones, joints and connective tissue of the body. This is termed ‘Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine’ (OMM). This is very valuable for people with injuries – after motor vehicle accidents, work injuries, sports injuries, etc. – as you might expect. But it is also helpful for people with heart or lung or digestive problems, to name a few, because it helps reduce the stress the body has to deal with in order to heal. This type of manipulative treatment also can improve the body’s ability to fight an infection or get rid of swelling that can slow healing. There are many other applications.

In summary, your family physician might be a ‘DO’ and you didn’t know it. The ‘DO’ profession is the fastest growing health care profession in the United States and has a history of emphasizing family medicine and family care. Many ‘DO’ family physicians incorporate OMM in there practice. The specialists in ‘Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine’, like me, focus on the muscles, bones, joints and connective tissue and their relationship to your particular concern.