Osteopathic Doctor

A licensed physician focusing on the musculoskeletal system and hands-on manipulation.


An osteopathic doctor, also known as a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO), is a licensed medical professional who treats the whole person, focusing on preventive health care. They receive special training in the musculoskeletal system and use a hands-on approach called osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) to diagnose, treat, and prevent illness or injury. Osteopathic doctors can practice in any medical specialty, prescribe medications, and perform surgeries.

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Osteopathic medicine was founded in 1874 by Andrew Taylor Still, a physician and surgeon. Still believed that the body had an innate ability to heal itself and that manual manipulation of the musculoskeletal system could promote healing. He established the American School of Osteopathy in Kirksville, Missouri, in 1892. Throughout the 20th century, osteopathic medicine gained recognition and acceptance, with DOs serving in both World Wars. In 1973, the American Medical Association recognized osteopathic medicine as a distinct form of medical practice.


  1. Whole-Person Approach Osteopathic doctors consider the entire person, including lifestyle factors, when diagnosing and treating patients.
  2. Hands-On Treatment Osteopathic manipulative treatment can help alleviate pain, improve range of motion, and promote healing.
  3. Preventive Care Osteopathic doctors emphasize preventive care and health maintenance to help patients avoid illness and injury.
  4. Musculoskeletal Expertise With specialized training in the musculoskeletal system, osteopathic doctors can effectively diagnose and treat related conditions.
  5. Patient-Centered Care Osteopathic doctors prioritize building strong doctor-patient relationships and involving patients in their own care decisions.
  6. Versatility Osteopathic doctors can practice in any medical specialty, offering a wide range of healthcare services.

How It Works

Osteopathic doctors, or DOs, are licensed physicians who practice a whole-person approach to healthcare. They focus on preventive medicine and the body's ability to heal itself. DOs receive specialized training in the musculoskeletal system and use osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) to diagnose, treat, and prevent illness or injury. OMT involves using the hands to apply gentle pressure, resistance, and stretching to the muscles, joints, and soft tissues. This helps to promote healing, relieve pain, and improve overall function. DOs also prescribe medications, perform surgeries, and use other conventional medical treatments as needed.


When considering an osteopathic doctor, it's important to ensure they are licensed and board-certified. Some health insurance plans may not cover OMT, so it's essential to check with your provider. Osteopathic manipulative treatment may not be suitable for everyone, particularly those with certain medical conditions such as severe osteoporosis, fractures, or infections. It's crucial to discuss your medical history and any concerns with your DO before beginning treatment. Additionally, while DOs are trained in all areas of medicine, some may specialize in specific fields, so it's important to find one that aligns with your healthcare needs.

How Much It Costs

The cost of seeing an osteopathic doctor varies depending on factors such as location, insurance coverage, and the specific services provided. In general, an initial consultation with a DO may range from $150 to $500, while follow-up visits may cost between $75 and $300. Osteopathic manipulative treatment sessions may be an additional cost, ranging from $50 to $200 per session. Health insurance plans that cover osteopathic care may reduce out-of-pocket expenses significantly. It's best to contact your insurance provider and the osteopathic doctor's office for more accurate cost estimates.

Virtual & Online Options

Virtual or online consultations with osteopathic doctors have become increasingly popular, offering convenience and accessibility. These options allow patients to discuss their health concerns, receive advice, and obtain prescriptions without leaving their homes. However, virtual consultations may not be suitable for all conditions, particularly those requiring physical examinations or osteopathic manipulative treatment. In-person visits with a local osteopathic doctor near you offer the advantage of hands-on evaluation and treatment, which can be crucial for musculoskeletal issues and chronic pain management. Ultimately, the choice between virtual and in-person care depends on your specific health needs and preferences.


To become a licensed osteopathic doctor in the United States, one must complete a four-year undergraduate degree, followed by four years of medical school at an accredited osteopathic medical college. After graduating, DOs complete a residency program in their chosen specialty, which can last from 3 to 7 years. They must then pass the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX-USA) to obtain a state license to practice. Board certification in a specific specialty is optional but highly recommended. Osteopathic doctors can earn board certification through the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) or the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS).

Complementary Practices

Osteopathic medicine can be complemented by other holistic practices such as chiropractic care, acupuncture, massage therapy, and naturopathy. These practices share a focus on treating the whole person and supporting the body's natural healing processes. Incorporating nutrition, exercise, and stress management techniques can also enhance the benefits of osteopathic treatment.

Practitioner Types

Osteopathic doctors (DOs) are licensed medical professionals who have completed additional training in osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT). They can practice in various medical specialties, including primary care, pediatrics, surgery, and sports medicine. Other healthcare providers, such as physical therapists and massage therapists, may incorporate some osteopathic techniques in their practice, but only DOs are fully trained in osteopathic medicine.

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  • Q: What is the difference between an MD and a DO?

    • A: Both MDs and DOs are licensed physicians who can practice medicine in the United States. However, DOs receive additional training in osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) and follow a holistic approach to patient care, focusing on the musculoskeletal system and its impact on overall health.
  • Q: Can osteopathic treatment help with chronic pain?

    • A: Yes, osteopathic manipulative treatment can be effective in managing various types of chronic pain, such as lower back pain, neck pain, and headaches. By addressing musculoskeletal imbalances and promoting proper alignment, OMT can help reduce pain, improve mobility, and enhance overall well-being.
  • Q: Is osteopathic medicine covered by insurance?

    • A: In most cases, yes. Osteopathic physicians are licensed medical professionals, and their services are generally covered by health insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid. However, coverage for specific treatments may vary depending on the individual plan and the medical necessity of the treatment.
  • Q: How often should I see an osteopathic doctor?

    • A: The frequency of visits to an osteopathic doctor depends on your individual health needs and the severity of your condition. Some patients may benefit from weekly or bi-weekly treatments, while others may only require occasional check-ups. Your osteopathic physician will work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan based on your specific needs and goals.
  • Q: Can osteopathic medicine help with digestive issues?

    • A: Yes, osteopathic manipulative treatment can be beneficial for managing various digestive problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), acid reflux, and constipation. By addressing musculoskeletal imbalances and promoting proper function of the digestive organs, OMT can help alleviate symptoms and improve overall digestive health.


Osteopathic medicine offers a unique, holistic approach to healthcare that focuses on treating the whole person and promoting the body's natural healing processes. By combining traditional medical practices with osteopathic manipulative treatment, DOs can help patients achieve optimal health and well-being. Whether you're seeking relief from chronic pain, digestive issues, or other health concerns, working with an osteopathic physician can provide you with personalized, comprehensive care that addresses the root causes of your symptoms and supports your body's innate ability to heal itself. As more people discover the benefits of this integrative approach to healthcare, osteopathic medicine continues to gain recognition as a valuable complementary practice in the pursuit of optimal wellness.