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Arthritis Health Center

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Osteopathic Medicine - Topic Overview

What is osteopathic medicine?

Osteopathic medicine emphasizes overall health and the relation among the body's nerves, muscles, bones, and organs. Osteopathic physicians (also called doctors of osteopathic medicine, or DOs) base diagnosis and treatment on the idea that the body's systems are interconnected. Instead of treating specific symptoms or illnesses, DOs regard and treat the body as an integrated whole. Osteopathic medicine focuses on disease prevention and health maintenance.

Osteopathic physicians must complete basic medical education from an accredited college of osteopathic medicine. Accreditation is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council on Postsecondary Education. Like medical doctors (MDs), DOs must complete an internship and residency program after their basic medical education. DOs can prescribe medicine and do surgery.

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Like MDs, DOs must pass a state medical board examination to obtain a license in order to enter practice. Each state board sets its own requirements and then issues the license for the osteopathic physician to practice in that state.

What is osteopathic medicine used for?

Osteopathic physicians may serve as primary care providers. DOs can prescribe medicines, order medical tests such as X-rays, and do surgery. DOs often provide treatment in a hospital. More than half of all osteopathic physicians practice in primary care areas. Examples of primary care areas are children's health (pediatrics), pregnant women's health (obstetrics), women's health (gynecology), and general adult health (internal medicine).

Some osteopathic physicians use hands-on manipulation of bones and muscles, or osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT), in their training and practice. OMT allows osteopathic physicians to use their hands to help diagnose injury and illness, help pain, and promote healing.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: November 14, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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