What to Expect From Your First Visit to a DO

It’s time for your first appointment with your new physician, who happens to be a doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO). Your visit is going to be a lot like seeing an MD -- with possibly a few key exceptions. 

DOs can treat any condition, from allergies to osteoporosis, and they can have any medical specialty. They can give you any vaccines and medical tests you need, like any other doctor. 

Your DO will check on what you need, whether it’s a mammogram, a cholesterol blood test, an X-ray for the ankle you think you sprained, a quit-smoking program, or screening tests for depression or another mental health problem. 
 

Getting to Know You

Osteopathic medicine is about how all the parts of your body relate to each other. So if you come in with knee pain, they are likely going to look at more than your knee. 

Your DO will want to hear about your lifestyle -- such as what you eat, what you do for exercise, and how stressed you feel -- as well as any symptoms that bother you.

The biggest difference you may notice at your appointment is “OMT.” That's short for osteopathic manipulative treatment, and it's a hands-on method to diagnose, treat, or prevent conditions. All DOs learn it in medical school, and many use it in their practice. If yours uses OMT as a regular part of care, she will use techniques such as gentle pressure and stretches to check for restrictions to movement and get your muscles and bones moving more freely. It won’t hurt. 

OMT doesn’t cure everything -- you may also need medicine or surgery for some problems. But for some conditions, your DO may see how you do with OMT first. 
 

Eye on Your Future

During your appointment, your DO will probably give you advice to help you avoid injuries or diseases down the road. Prevention is a big part of the osteopathic approach to medicine.

Everything else should be pretty familiar. You’ll get your blood pressure checked, and you’ll step on a scale. 

You should feel free to bring up anything that’s on your mind about your health. It’s all confidential, so you can have a trusting relationship with your DO, just like any other doctor. 

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Your DO, just like an MD, may talk with you about complementary and alternative treatments, such as acupuncture and herbal remedies, if you’re interested. You should tell your DO about any supplements or herbal products you take, even if they are "natural." That way, she can make sure they're safe for you.

When it’s time to wrap up at the doctor’s office and head home, your insurance should cover your appointment, just like it would if you had seen an MD. Your copay on your visit should be the same as with another doctor, too. If you use Medicare, your DO visit is treated the same as a visit to any other doctor.
 

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on August 12, 2016

Sources

SOURCES:

Piedmont Healthcare: “Your doctor: The difference between an M.D. and D.O.”

American Osteopathic Association: “Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment.”

American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine: “What Is Osteopathic Medicine?”
Medicare.gov: “Is my test, item, or service covered? Doctor & other health care provider services.”

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