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Difference Between MD and DO

medical-563427_640MD vs DO
Understanding the abbreviations of medical degrees often becomes very difficult, especially for patients. Each and every medical degree has its own domain or specialty of practice area which is clearly demarcated. The treatment profile, principle of intervention and diagnosis, care management approaches also vary across various specialties. One such confusing area is to understand the practice domain of an DO and MD. As per medical guidelines DO refers to Doctor of Osteopathy. On the other hand MD refers to Doctor of Medicine. These are professional medical degrees and the individuals who acquire these degrees or practices under the domain of these two degrees enjoy an equal status and quality of life. Moreover the duration of medical schooling and the term period for internship is also the same. Completion of these two phases of study helps them to acquire a practicing degree in the field of medical sciences.

Both these degrees need to be pursued under a stipulated curriculum. However, the set up of receiving such degrees differ from place to place. In pursuing Doctor of Osteopathy, individuals are exposed to specialized schools for osteopathic medicine. On the other hand, individuals who are pursuing their Doctor of Medicine attend regular medical schools. The philosophy of Osteopathy is to assess the patient holistically. The Osteopaths needs to investigate various organic causes for a specific disease. Hence, osteopaths incorporate care strategies that are beneficial for the relief of symptoms of a disease. Individuals who acquire a MD degree, relies on specific diagnosis and treatment for a disease. Their principle of care does not incorporate a holistic approach. Hence, these individuals provide treatment based on evidenced based pharmacologic interventions and surgical interventions for alleviating the disease of the patient, rather than the symptoms of the disease.

The individuals with DO degree intervenes with body manipulations which mostly similar to chiropractitioners. However, individuals with MD degree do not intervene with body manipulations. Thus osteopaths are medical practitioners who intervene with alternative medicine and manipulations. Some of the techniques used by Osteopaths include acupressure, physical therapy and manipulations of muscle and bones to provide immediate relief. Osteopaths are effective for musculoskeletal ailments. A brief comparison of both the specialties is described below:

Features DO MD
Abbreviation for Doctor of Osteopathy Doctor of Medicine
Specializes in Musculoskeletal ailments are the priority area of practice Medical ailments like diabetes, infections, cardiovascular and kidney and Gastrointestinal diseases.
Formal Education Specialized schools Medical Schools
Treatment philosophy Relies on holistic care of a patient Relies on specific care and as required intervenes with medical therapy or surgery
Body manipulations performed Yes No
Intervention strategies acupressure, physical therapy and manipulations of muscle and bones to provide immediate relief Evidence based medical or surgical guidelines
Pathological tests Does not relies too much for diagnosis Relies on pathological reports to initiate treatments
Evidence Based Yes, but lack of improper documentation Yes, and heavily supplemented by proper documentations
Objective of treatment Return the homeostasis of bodily functions back to normal Return the homeostasis of bodily functions back to normal. However, if homeostasis cannot be revived they treat patients with supportive therapies which helps patients to live their life in spite of medical and physical challenges
Recommendations in Pneumonia Chest physiotherapy is not recommended as per evidence based literature Ample evidence supports MD’s should intervene in pneumonia
Evidence for practice in paediatric settings Yes No
Effectiveness of treatment Data regarding effectiveness is unclear and insufficient. However, they are one of the preferred choices in relieve of musculoskeletal pain and ligament injury Medicine is the most effective treatment documented in various clinical guidelines. MD’s have the technical expertise of treating a wide range of medical conditions including treatment for musculoskeletal disorders.

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  1. Just to make the distinction even more ambiguous, DO students often will take the COMLEX and USMLE both.

  2. Unfortunately this article is completely wrong and misleading. As of the current time the Ama and AoA have merged. The manipulative therapy is in addition to standard medical training. DO medical students match in both Ama and aoa residency s. A Do internist and md internist practice the same type of medicine. The Do often has more incite into muscular skeletal issues but that is not the core of treatment or even training.
    And currently the Do and Md are both having the same headaches with the changes in the structure of medicine. Get your information correct or don’t write an article. Dr Darrell Jonas. (DO)

    • This seems to be written from the perspective of an European author. US trained DOs and MDs both use evidence based practice in their approach to patients. A European DO and an American DO are not equivalent.

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References :

[0]Posadzki P, Ernst E (February 2011). "Osteopathy for musculoskeletal pain patients: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials". Clin. Rheumatol. (Systematic review) 30(2): 285–91

[1]DiGiovanna, Eileen; Schiowitz, S; Dowling, DD (2005). An Osteopathic Approach to Diagnosis and Treatment (3rd ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins

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