A doctor of osteopathic medicine (D.O.) is a physician licensed to practice medicine, perform surgery, and prescribe medication.
Like all allopathic physicians (or MDs), osteopathic physicians complete 4 years of medical school and can choose to practice in any specialty of medicine. However, osteopathic physicians receive an additional 300 to 500 hours in the study of hands-on manual medicine and the body's musculoskeletal system.
Osteopathic physicians hold to the principle that a patient's history of illness and physical trauma are written into the body's structure. The osteopathic physician's highly developed sense of touch allows the physician to feel (palpitate) the patient's living anatomy (the flow of fluids, motion and texture of tissues, and structural makeup).
Like MDs, osteopathic physicians are licensed at the state level. Osteopathic physicians who wish to specialize may become board certified (in the same manner as MDs) by completing a 2- to 6-year residency within the specialty area and passing the board certification exams.
DOs practice in all specialties of medicine, ranging from emergency medicine and cardiovascular surgery to psychiatry and geriatrics. A majority of osteopathic doctors use many of the medical and surgical treatments that are used by other medical doctors.
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Update Date 12/12/2014
Updated by: Paul Ballas, DO, Attending Psychiatrist, Friends Hospital, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.