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What is an Osteopathic Doctor?

Information about the practice of osteopathic medicine.

Today, nearly one in five medical students in the United States is training to be an osteopathic physician. Osteopathic physicians can choose any specialty, prescribe drugs, perform surgeries, and practice medicine anywhere in the United States. Osteopathic physicians bring the additional benefits of osteopathic manipulative techniques to diagnose and treat patients. Osteopathic physicians work in partnership with patients to help them achieve a high level of wellness by focusing on health education, injury prevention, and disease prevention.

Osteopathic medicine emphasizes the interrelationship between structure and function and recognizes the body’s ability to heal itself; it is the role of the osteopathic practitioner to facilitate that process.


Principles of Osteopathic Medicine

The osteopathic medical philosophy is defined as the concept of health care that embraces the concept of the unity of the living organism’s structure (anatomy) and function (physiology). These are the four major principles of osteopathy:

1. The body is a unit. An integrated unit of mind, body, and spirit.
2. The body possesses self-regulatory mechanisms, having the inherent capacity to defend, repair, and remodel itself.
3. Structure and function are reciprocally inter-related.
4. Rational therapy is based on consideration of the first three principles.

These principles are not held by osteopathic physicians to be empirical laws; they serve, rather, as the underpinnings of the osteopathic philosophy on health and disease.