Comparing Osteopathic and Allopathic Medical Training
If you are wondering if you should see a physician who is a DO versus an MD, you are not alone. While the two are largely similar, there are some differences in the training that DO physicians receive when compared to MDs.
Comparing Allopathic and Osteopathic Medicine
Doctors who have an MD degree practice allopathicmedicine, a term coined in the early 19th century to differentiate homeopathy from science-based medicine.
In the end, a physician who is has a DO degree is held to the same standards as an MD.
Osteopathic Medicine Versus Osteopathy
The philosophy behind osteopathic medicine is centered around a “whole person” approach to care, emphasizing wellness and prevention as opposed to just treating an illness.
Physicians with DO degrees should not be confused with non-medical osteopaths who have no medical background and are trained solely in body manipulation. They not only lack the skills to treat medical conditions, but they are also entirely barred from using the DO designation in the United States.
How Osteopathic Medical Training Differs
Medical students wanting to attain a DO degree are educated in osteopathic medical treatment (OMT), a practice of body manipulation similar to that used by chiropractors. Medical and OMT training is conducted simultaneously over four years, after which a board examination must be passed to become a fully licensed physician.
Medical students wanting to acquire an MD degree will also go through four years ofmedical training and face board certification, as well.
To become a licensed physician, medical students may take one of two exams: the COMLEX exam, which only DO students take, or the USMLE, which can be taken either by a DO or MD student.
Side by side, the degrees are virtually identical, allowing those carrying the distinction to practice the full scope of medicine in the United States and 64 other countries.
The same cannot be said for physicians who have attained their DO degrees abroad. These degrees are not recognized in the United States.
A Word From Verywell
By and large, the selection of a doctor depends as much on experience and expertise as it does the medical degree hanging on the wall. In the end, it’s a highly subjective choice for which a DO or MD degree offers
little distinction.It’s important to also realize that being board certified in osteopathic medicine doesn’t mean that the doctor will incorporate OMT into the practice; some don’t. For the most part, an MD and DO will approach a case in more or less the manner, reviewing patient history, symptoms, and lab tests before offering a treatment plan. A DO may, perhaps, offer an adjustment if the situation calls for it, but it wouldn’t be offered as an “alternative” treatment but rather as an adjunct to standardly prescribed medical practices.
In the end, you should choose a doctor based on proficiency, a willingness to answer your questions, and a shared vision of the goals you aim to achieve. While there may be variations in how a DO or MD approach treatment, they are generally incidental and shouldn’t color your decision as to which one might be “better” than the other.