MUNDANE MYSTERIES: The Difference Between MDs & DOs

Going through health care provider qualifications can be daunting, especially as their names often come with designations that don’t really make their title clear. Most of us know an MD is a “Doctor of Medicine”, but what is a DO?

MDs & DOs, or “Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine”, get pretty much the same medical school training & experience. But, MD’s are mostly “allopathic”, or remedy-based, while DOs take a more holistic, or whole body, approach.

Their educations are largely the same for both, with 4 years of medical school followed by a residency. In fact, DO & MD graduates train in the same residency programs. But, DOs get roughly 200 hours of additional hands-on training with the musculoskeletal system, called osteopathic manipulative treatment, which is the manipulation or massaging of tissues to alleviate pain.

For chronic back pain without an injury, an MD might prescribe pain relievers. Meanwhile, a DO might investigate other potential sources of the pain by viewing the entire overall patient, looking for other causes like stress or other conditions. DOs take environment, nutrition & overall health into consideration. DOs are also taught to emphasize overall wellness, a more systemic approach.

MDs & DOs may have marginally different educational curriculums, but an individual physician’s approach to practicing medicine isn’t always bound by that guidance. An MD can take a holistic approach, while a DO may not use osteopathic manipulative treatment as much, or at all.

Neither MD nor DO programs are any easier or harder to get into or graduate from than the other. And, after graduating, both have virtually the same abilities in practicing medicine, including writing prescriptions. So, selecting an MD or a DO for your personal care is mainly one of preference. In the end, it’s the doctor you choose, not their title, that matters.

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