A doctor is a doctor, right? Well, as it turns out, no. There are two types of doctors practicing in America: Doctors of Medicine (MD) and Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine (DO). But what’s the difference?
The MD Versus DO Debate
As with seemingly everything in our society, there are some polarizing stances when it comes to which type of doctor is better. However, when you break it down, you’ll see that the two are really not so far apart.
How MDs and DOs Are the Same
Let’s start with what MDs and DOs have in common.
- Complete four years of medical school and a residency program
- Can choose to complete a fellowship program
- Are eligible to practice in any medical field they choose, including surgery
- Can prescribe medication
How MDs and DOs Are Different
The main difference between an MD and a DO is the philosophy behind the care they provide.
Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine
DOs practice osteopathic medicine, which centers on treating the “whole person” instead of focusing only on the symptoms. They view the body, mind and spirit as being interconnected; and therefore, look at a wide array of factors that may be contributing to the illness at hand. They also focus on disease and injury prevention.
DOs undergo about an extra 200 hours of training in osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM). During this training, they learn more about nerves, muscles and bones and how the connection between them impacts overall health. They use their hands to manipulate muscles and joints to help diagnose, treat and prevent illness or injury.
Doctors of Medicine
MDs practice allopathic medicine, which focuses on diagnosing and treating disease. They typically use medication or physical intervention to treat an injury or illness and its symptoms.
In the past, the difference between the care you received from MDs and DOs was more noticeable. However, in today’s medicine, many MDs also provide “whole patient care.” They factor in things like diet, exercise and stress and the role those factors may be playing in their patient’s health.
The Bottom Line
Both MDs and DOs are highly-qualified and capable of providing excellent, compassionate care. Currently, the majority of US doctors are MDs, but the number of practicing DOs has grown exponentially over the past few decades.
So, if you’re wondering which doctor you should choose, the answer is simple — the one you prefer. Whether choosing an MD or a DO, it’s important to make sure you feel comfortable with any doctor you’re entrusting with your health.
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