Osteopathic Medicine

In the United States, there are two distinctions of physicians practicing medicine—those that have earned the Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree and those that have earned the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree. MDs and DOs are both fully qualified physicians licensed to treat patients by doing physical examinations, prescribing medications, ordering tests, and performing surgical and other procedures.


While both MDs and DOs can attend to all medical and surgical needs, DOs practice by taking a holistic, empathic approach to medicine and partnering with the patients in their care. DOs use the latest science and technology, including pharmaceuticals, while incorporating the body’s ability to self-heal.

Osteopathic medicine was established in 1892 by Andrew Taylor Still MD, DO, who sought to reform existing nineteenth-century medical practices which he believed often caused significant harm through dangerous medicines and unsanitary surgical procedures and also failed to shed light on the origin and effective treatment of disease.  He advocated manipulation of the musculoskeletal system, surgery, sparing use of drugs and prevention of illness and injury in his medical philosophy.

Osteopathic principles are summarized in the four “Tenets of Osteopathic Medicine” stated by the American Osteopathic Association:

  1. The body is a unit; the person is a unit of body, mind, and spirit.
    Taking a whole-person approach to medicine, which emphasizes learning as much about the person with the disease as the disease itself.
  2. The body is capable of self-regulation, self-healing, and health maintenance.
    Focusing on the interdependence of body systems for self-regulation and healing.
  3. Structure and function are reciprocally interrelated.
    Understanding the influence on overall health of neuromusculoskeletal structural and functional relationships.
  4. Rational treatment is based upon an understanding of the basic principles of body unity, self-regulation, and the interrelationship of structure and function.
    Preventing injury and illness in addition to treating current medical problems.

These principles, combined with traditional education in clinical subject areas, characterize the unique nature of osteopathic medicine.

Today, DOs are one of the most rapidly growing medical practitioner groups. The NBOME believes that the quality of health care in the U.S. and the medical interactions and services that patients experience each day will continue to benefit from the collaboration with osteopathic medicine, helping to further solidify public trust in the medical profession as a whole.

We look at the body in health as meaning perfection and harmony, not in one part, but as the whole.
Andrew Taylor Still, MD, DO
Founder of the American School of Osteopathy, 1892
The Philosophy and Mechanical Principles of Osteopathy, 1892 (p. 44)
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