dr  Jesse Pace

Most people know doctors with “MD” after their name. But some doctors have “DO” as part of their title instead. So what is the difference between a DO (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) and an MD (Doctor of Medicine)?

What kind of training do DOs and MDs undergo?

Both a DO and MD attended medical school and are physicians. What is different is how they are trained. Currently, about 25% of medical students are pursuing a DO degree.

DOs and MDs can pursue careers in primary care (like family medicine or internal medicine) or in a specialty (like oncology, urology, or general surgery).

Both types of physicians are required to complete a four-year undergraduate degree followed by a four-year degree at an osteopathic medical school or medical school. After completing their medical studies, they must complete an internship and specialist training (on-the-job training). After the stay, they can apply for a scholarship to further their education in a special field.

MDs and DOs must pass a licensure exam to practice medicine.

What is the difference between a DO and an MD?

MDs are considered allopathic doctors. They are trained to treat and diagnose medical conditions using conventional tools such as prescription drugs, x-rays and surgery. Generally, MDs take a targeted approach to treatment by reviewing symptoms, making a diagnosis, and prescribing treatment according to that diagnosis.

DOs also use traditional medicine techniques to diagnose and treat their patients. But they have a strong focus on prevention and a holistic approach to health. That is, they see the body as integrated. For example, if you visit a doctor for abdominal pain, in addition to treating your symptoms, they can examine what is causing the pain and how you can prevent it.

Osteopathic doctors are taught that many diseases originate in, or cause symptoms in, the body’s musculoskeletal system (including the bones, muscles, and nerves). Because of this, they are trained to perform physical manipulations and adjustments to treat symptoms and illnesses. These methods (referred to as osteopathic manipulative treatment, or OMT) are designed to relieve tight muscles, back pain, neck pain, and other ailments.

Both MDs and DOs are trained to treat and diagnose medical conditions using conventional tools such as x-rays, surgery, and prescriptions. DOs are trained with the understanding that structure and function are related. In addition to traditional techniques, DOs receive additional training in osteopathic manipulative treatment, which can aid in the diagnosis and treatment of a variety of issues.

The difference between osteopathic doctors and naturopathic practitioners

It’s important to note that osteopathic physicians (DOs) are different from naturopathic practitioners. Naturopathic practitioners (also called naturopaths) use natural remedies to treat health problems. Naturopaths complete four years of college education but are not licensed to practice medicine.

Naturopaths focus on healing the body through lifestyle changes, stress management, food, herbs, and water. While a DO can also suggest these lifestyle changes, they have the authority to prescribe medication, perform surgery, or perform manipulation.

What to expect when you see a DO

When you see a DO, the exam may not be that different from one with an MD, but they may focus more on your holistic health, prevention, and manipulations.

Both types of doctors are trained to provide you with excellent care. If you have any questions about your health, consult your family doctor. To find a provider near you, visit www.pardeehospital.org.

dr Jesse Pace is a Family Medicine Physician at Pardee Family Medicine Associates Asheville.