Osteopathic Medicine

Osteopathic medicine is an offshoot of traditional medicine recognized in the United States, as well as 47 other countries across the globe. Those who graduate from osteopathic medical school are called osteopathic medical physicians and hold a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine or DO.

Osteopathic medicine was first introduced by Andrew Taylor Still, today called the father of osteopathy, as a radically different approach to the traditional medical practices of the 19th century. He railed against the traditional belief that germs were the cause of illness and disease, citing that instead of using antibiotics to treat ailments, the body should be realigned to work properly. He believed that the key to curing a patient was restoring the body’s normal blood supply, correcting the body’s structure and examining a patient’s bone and joint network. Still believed that doing these things would trigger the body’s natural ability to cure itself and health would be restored. Still is also credited with promoting the idea of preventive medicine and the idea of treating the whole body and the whole patient rather than the single malady.

Today, training to become an osteopathic medical physician is very similar to that of a traditional medical doctor. They attend four years of undergraduate college, attend four years of medical school and three years of residency. They must also become licensed just like a traditional physician. In fact, as time has passed, the distinctions between an MD and a DO are becoming less and less obvious, with more traditional MD programs promoting holistic health, and more DO graduates enter the primary care field. However, osteopathic physicians take an oath, along with the traditional Hippocratic oath, to maintain and uphold the core principles of osteopathy. They are 1) The body is a unit and a person is a combination of body, mind and spirit. 2) The body is capable of self-regulation, self-healing and health maintenance. 3) Structure and function are reciprocally interrelated. 4) Rational treatment is based on an understanding of these principles.

Today, there are 25 osteopathic medical colleges in 31 locations in the US and roughly 55,000 fully licensed osteopathic physicians that bring a more patient-centered, holistic approach to medical practice than that of their more traditional MD counterparts. Experts at the American Medical Association estimate that this number will skyrocket to a little less than 100,000 osteopathic medical physicians by the year 2020.

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