Osteopathy is a distinct form of American medicine. It emphasizes that structure and function are interrelated, and that the body has an innate tendency toward health and self-healing.
Doctors of Osteopathy are fully licensed medical doctors who can prescribe medication and perform surgery, just like MDs (Medical Doctors). Additionally, they receive additional training in osteopathic manipulative treatment, or OMM.
Manual therapy consists of techniques that use the hands to manipulate muscles, soft tissues and joints. These techniques include joint mobilizations/manipulations, muscle stretching (such as myofascial release and muscle energy), and strain-counterstrain movements.
These techniques are different from massage therapy, which only applies pressure to the skin. Instead, osteopathic doctors put gentle pressure on your muscles and soft tissue that is both soothing and therapeutic.
Using these techniques, DOs can help the body to heal itself and improve function. This is important because as osteopathic physicians, we understand that structure and function are reciprocally related.
For example, if an asthma patient isn’t breathing well, a DO could utilize OMT to help the ribs, diaphragm and thoracic spine work normally. This would allow the patient to breathe properly without relying on medications. This would also help the body to reduce inflammation, which is another symptom of asthma. These types of manipulations are just a small part of the overall osteopathic philosophy that we use today as DOs.
Patient education is a key aspect of the osteopathic philosophy. Doctors learn to build and sustain lasting, trusting relationships with their patients and encourage them to become active participants in their health care. They are trained to explain treatment options, from conservative lifestyle changes to more serious medical procedures, and to promote preventative care.
Osteopathic physicians understand that the body’s structure and function are interrelated. They also learn to use their hands to diagnose and treat disease through osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT), a gentle form of manual pressure or manipulation on the muscles, joints and bones.
They take the time to listen carefully and compassionately to their patients, incorporating their beliefs into comprehensive care without bias of age, race, creed religion, sex or gender identity. They also learn to address the broader social determinants of health, such as poverty and economic disparities, in their community service. The patient-centered approach to healthcare makes osteopathic doctors well suited to educate patients, their families and their communities about a wide range of topics that are important for maintaining and improving health.