A D.O. is a doctor of osteopathic medicine, which is similar to a medical doctor (M.D.) in some ways. Both have four years of undergraduate education, then four years of medical school with multiple board examinations before graduation. Furthermore, both are required to attend residency training at accredited institutions, which will be another 3-5 years of learning the specific skills for one’s specialty before being fully qualified to practice. Both types of doctors can prescribe medications, order tests and specialize in any field of medicine. It can be confusing because many D.O.’s and M.D.’s work in the same office.

The biggest difference in the training is that the D.O. curriculum requires knowledge of how to assess whether patients’ muscles and bones are in the correct alignment and whether they feel healthy. Starting in our first year of medical school, we have extensive training in the anatomy lab and our osteopathic manipulative therapy (OMT) lab where the hands-on skills are applied. These skills are reinforced throughout the years of medical school and can become useful in any field that a D.O. ends up in. Some D.O.’s complete a residency program that is specifically designed to treat musculoskeletal problems like neck, shoulder, hip, and back pain, which is what I did.

Another goal of the D.O. curriculum is to teach a holistic approach to how healthcare is delivered. Since the late 1800’s, when osteopathic medicine started, the curriculum has always included teaching that the body has powerful self-healing capabilities, especially when the musculoskeletal and venous and lymphatic systems are moving freely. In addition, D.O.’s are taught that it is important to have balance in the body, mind, and spirit for healing to occur.

Many people ask how chiropractors (D.C.’s) and osteopaths (D.O.’s) are different. The biggest difference is that osteopaths have a license to practice medicine and surgery, while chiropractors have a limited license, which does not allow them to prescribe medications or perform surgery. Many of the manipulation techniques D.O.’s and D.C.’s use on the spine, muscles and bones are similar, but approaches to patient care, diagnoses and number of treatments can be quite different.


Techniques I commonly use are:

  • Joint manipulation using High Velocity Low Amplitude (HVLA)
  • Deep tissue massage
  • Muscle energy technique
  • Myofascial release
  • Counterstrain
  • Cranial Osteopathy
  • Graston Technique
  • Kineseo taping