What’s the difference between an osteopath and an MD?

A STAFF REPORT FROM THE STRAIGHT DOPE SCIENCE ADVISORY BOARD

Dear Straight Dope:

What exactly is the differnece between a doctor of osteopathy (DO) and a medical doctor (MD)? My friend who is a nurse says basically a DO is like a chiropractor and an MD combined. Does one have more or better schooling and do MD's practice at osteopathic hospitals? Give me the scoop.

SDStaff WB replies:

The difference between a DO and an MD is more a matter of philosophy than training, although D.O.s do receive additional training in the musculoskeletal system. Other than that, according to the Osteopathic Pre-Med FAQ (located at Osteopathic.com), DOs and MDs get the same schooling. DOs can do anything an MD can do (prescribe medication, perform surgery, leer at nurses, etc.), and are considered equal by the law. This only applies to American DOs. Non-North American DOs adhere more strongly to the philosophies set down by Dr. Andrew Taylor Still, MD, the founder of osteopathic medicine (which, by the way, translates to “bone suffering”) — they do NOT prescribe medicines or perform surgery, and are limited to “osteopathic manipulation,” which is similar to chiropractic. As for whether MDs practice at osteopathic hospitals, the FAQ has this to say on the subject, “MDs and DOs work together as colleagues and neither are barred from each other’s institutions.” But if I were you, I’d call and ask.

Send questions to Cecil via cecil@straightdope.com.

STAFF REPORTS ARE WRITTEN BY THE STRAIGHT DOPE SCIENCE ADVISORY BOARD, CECIL'S ONLINE AUXILIARY. THOUGH THE SDSAB DOES ITS BEST, THESE COLUMNS ARE EDITED BY ED ZOTTI, NOT CECIL, SO ACCURACYWISE YOU'D BETTER KEEP YOUR FINGERS CROSSED.

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