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What is Osteopathic Medicine?

Osteopathic Medicine is a branch of medical practice that emphasizes a holistic approach to health care, considering the interconnections between the body’s systems. It uses manual techniques to diagnose and treat various medical conditions, including musculoskeletal injuries and pain, respiratory and digestive issues, and many others.

History of Osteopathic Medicine

The history of Osteopathic Medicine dates back to the late 19th century when American physician Andrew Taylor Still developed the approach. Still was disillusioned with the medical practices of his time, which often relied on harsh treatments such as bloodletting, and sought to develop a gentler form of medicine. He combined his knowledge of anatomy and physiology with a focus on the interconnectedness of the body’s systems and the body’s ability to heal itself, leading to the development of Osteopathic Medicine.

In 1892, Still founded the first Osteopathic medical school in Kirksville, Missouri, and began teaching his holistic approach to health care. Despite initial resistance and skepticism, Osteopathic Medicine gradually gained recognition and acceptance over the 20th century. In the 1970s, Osteopathic Medicine became more widely accepted and integrated into mainstream medicine.

Today, Osteopathic Medicine is recognized as a distinct form of medical practice, with its own schools and licensing exams. There are over 30 colleges of Osteopathic Medicine in the United States, and Osteopathic Medicine is offered as a complementary or alternative approach to conventional medicine in many countries. DOs (Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine) are licensed to practice medicine and perform surgery like MDs (Medical Doctors).

Philosophy of Osteopathic Medicine

The philosophy of Osteopathic Medicine is centered around the belief that the body has the ability to heal itself and maintain a state of health. It takes a holistic view of the body, recognizing interconnected systems and the important role the musculoskeletal system plays in overall health.

The following principles form the core of the Osteopathic Medicine philosophy:

  • The body is a unit, and all its parts are interconnected and interdependent.
  • The structure and function of the body are closely related.
  • The body has the ability to self-regulate and self-heal.
  • Treatment should focus on the root cause of health problems rather than just treating symptoms.
  • The practitioner should use a hands-on approach to diagnosis and treatment, incorporating manual techniques to improve the body’s function and support its natural healing processes.

This holistic and patient-centered approach to health care emphasizes the importance of understanding the whole person’s lifestyle, environment, and emotional and spiritual well-being. By considering these factors, DOs (Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine) can provide individualized and comprehensive care that addresses the root causes of health problems and supports the body’s natural ability to heal itself.

Education and Certifications

To become a certified Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO), one must complete a 4-year graduate program in Osteopathic Medicine. This program covers all the same subjects as a traditional medical program, with an additional focus on Osteopathic Medicine’s unique approach to health care.

After completing their medical education, DOs must pass national licensing exams and complete a 1-year clinical internship before they can begin practicing. In addition, many states require DOs to complete continuing education courses to maintain their license.

Effectiveness of Osteopathic Medicine

Recent studies demonstrate the effectiveness of Osteopathic Medicine in treating a wide range of conditions and improving patients’ overall health and well-being. However, it’s important to note that the effectiveness of Osteopathic treatments can vary based on several factors, such as the severity of the condition, the patient’s overall health, and the specific techniques used.

Several studies include:

  • A systematic review. “Osteopathic manipulative treatment for low back pain: a systematic review,” published in the Journal of Osteopathic Medicine in 2019, found that Osteopathic treatments were effective in reducing pain and improving function in patients with low back pain.
  • A randomized controlled trial, “Efficacy of osteopathic manipulative treatment for knee osteoarthritis: a randomized controlled trial,” published in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies in 2018, found that Osteopathic treatments were effective in reducing pain and improving mobility in patients with knee osteoarthritis.
  • A study published in the Journal of Osteopathic Medicine in 2016, “The impact of osteopathic manipulative treatment on quality of life in patients with fibromyalgia: a randomized controlled trial,” found that Osteopathic treatments were effective in reducing chronic pain and improving quality of life in patients with fibromyalgia.

Why Osteopathic Medicine

Osteopathic Medicine offers a unique and holistic approach to health care that is growing in popularity. It can play an essential role in overall healthcare and in improving a patient’s quality of life. The approach, which emphasizes a holistic view of the body and its interconnected systems, can provide patients with a more comprehensive and individualized approach to health care.

Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine can help alleviate pain, increase mobility, and improve function by using manual techniques to diagnose and treat medical conditions. Focusing on the musculoskeletal system and using manual techniques can also provide patients with a more gentle and non-invasive treatment. Additionally, the holistic approach of Osteopathic Medicine can help identify and address the underlying causes of health problems rather than simply treating symptoms, leading to improved health outcomes and a higher quality of life for patients.

It’s important to note that Osteopathic Medicine is not a substitute for conventional medicine but rather a complementary approach that can be used in conjunction with conventional treatments. DOs often work alongside MDs (Medical Doctors) and other healthcare professionals to provide comprehensive and integrated care for their patients.

Osteopathic Medicine can play a significant role in overall healthcare and in improving a patient’s quality of life. Its holistic approach, combined with its use of manual techniques, can provide patients with a more comprehensive, gentle, and effective treatment.


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