What A DO Does That An MD Doesn’t Do


November 2, 2008

Problem: My physical therapist just referred me to an osteopath for my lower back pain. I’m skeptical. What can an osteopath do that a medical doctor can’t?

Solution: Mark Twain once said, “The educated physician will himself be an osteopath.” So first off, remember that an osteopathic physician (DO) is a fully licensed medical doctor. An MD is a doctor of medicine; a DO is a doctor of osteopathic medicine. Like MDs, osteopaths attend four-year medical schools followed by intern and residency programs. They can perform surgery, prescribe medication and practice any specialty.

One difference is that DOs have additional training in osteopathic manual medicine, said Chicago osteopath David Zeiger. That means they might use hands-on manipulation techniques to decrease pain from conditions such as migraines, chronic sinusitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, back pain and hysterectomy. Still, only about 10 percent actually do manipulations, said Zeiger, the medical director of Chicago’s HealthWorks Integrative Medical Clinic. “The medical model of a family practice is at the heart of our education and hence many DOs become family practitioners,” he said. More…