What is Osteopathic Medicine?

You are more than just the sum of your body parts. That’s why doctors of osteopathic medicine (D.O.s) practice a "whole person" approach to health care. Instead of just treating specific symptoms, osteopathic physicians concentrate on treating you as a whole.

Osteopathic physicians understand how all the body’s systems are interconnected and how each one affects the others. They focus special attention on the musculoskeletal system, which reflects and influences the condition of all other body systems.

This system of bones and muscles makes up about two-thirds of the body’s mass, and a routine part of the osteopathic patient examination is a careful evaluation of these important structures. D.O.s know that the body’s structure plays a critical role in its ability to function. They can use their eyes and hands to identify structural problems and to support the body’s natural tendency toward health and self-healing.

Osteopathic physicians also use their ears -- to listen to you and your health concerns. Doctors of osteopathic medicine help patients develop attitudes and lifestyles that don’t just fight illness, but help prevent it. Millions of Americans prefer this concerned and compassionate care, and have made D.O.s their doctors for life.

History of Osteopathic Medicine

A visionary ahead of his time.

A.T. StillOsteopathic medicine was founded in the late 1800s in Kirksville, Missouri, by Andrew Taylor Still, M.D., who felt that the medical practices of the day often caused more harm than good.

After losing members of his immediate family to meningitis, Dr. Still focused on developing a system of medical care that would promote the body's innate ability to heal itself. He called his system of medicine osteopathy, now known as osteopathic medicine. His concept of medicine was based on wellness and on the unity of all body parts. He identified the musculoskeletal system as the key element of health. He recognized the body's ability to heal itself through proper nutrition and staying fit.

Osteopathic medicine: A complete system of medical care with a philosophy that combines the needs of the patient with the current practice of medicine, surgery and obstetrics, and emphasizes the interrelationships between structure and function, and an appreciation of the body's ability to heal itself.

Osteopathic Medicine in the 21st Century

D.O.s are complete physicians. That means they are fully trained and licensed to prescribe medication and to perform surgery. D.O.s and allopathic physicians (M.D.s) are the only two types of complete physicians in the United States.

D.O.s practice in all branches of medicine from psychiatry to geriatrics to emergency medicine. However, D.O.s are trained to be generalists first, and specialists second. The majority are family-oriented, primary care physicians. Many D.O.s practice in small towns where they often care for entire families and whole communities.

  • The number of D.O.s has increased 67 percent since 1990.

  • More than 65% of all D.O.s practice in the primary care areas of family practice, internal medicine, obstetrics/gynecology and pediatrics.

  • D.O.s represent 6% of total U.S. physicians and over 8% of all military physicians.

  • Each year, more than 100 million patient visits are made to D.O.s.

Arizona Osteopathic Medical Association
5150 N.16th St., Ste. A-122
Phoenix, AZ 85016
Phone: (602) 266-6699 | Fax: (602) 266-1393
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