Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between MD and DO

stethoscopeMD vs DO

For many of us, there seems to be little difference between MD and DO, but in reality, the approach to treating patients and the types of conditions that each may treat can be considered quite different. Just starting with the initials, you can start to infer a difference. MD stands for Doctorate of Medicine. DO stands for Doctorate of Osteopathic medicine.

A MD is likely to treat illnesses and injuries with the traditional medications and treatment options. A DO is more likely to use a literal ‘hands on’ approach, as the overall idea is to initiate the body’s natural ability to heal itself through musculoskeletal manipulation. The DO avoids the practice of prescribing medications and other invasive treatments unless it is absolutely necessary.

While each physician adds four years to their post graduate education, the DO and the MD take different exams to receive their full rights to their doctorate, and the right to practice. Each must pass the MCAT test in order to qualify for their post graduate studies, but the DO must pass the COMLEX examination while the MD takes the USMLE examination.

It can be said that the MD is likely to treat the symptoms in order to make the patient feel better. The DO is more likely to treat the entire body, even if the injury is something as simple and straightforward as a broken arm.

Each physician is fully qualified to provide surgical practices, childbirth services and other medical treatments and procedures. The DO has received extensive training on the musculoskeletal impact on the body, and is more likely to take the entire body into consideration. Pain in your abdomen may be the sign of appendicitis, but it could also be the sign of dental issues, spinal alignment problems, and other seemingly unrelated issues. The DO is more likely to catch potential problems that initially look like they are unrelated.

The MD is quite likely to have a history of traditional, technology-based medicine practices and studies. The DO is more likely to have that same training plus the training associated with learning other forms of treatment, including massage therapies, herbal and Eastern based medicine, and alternative medical treatments.


1. MD stands for Doctorate of Medicine.

2. DO stands for Doctorate of Osteopathic medicine.

3. A DO focuses on encouraging the body’s natural desire to care for and heal itself.

4. MDs are more likely to prescribe medication.

5. DOs are trained in treatment methods that involve the musculoskeletal manipulation process.

6. A MD passes the USMLE exam.

7. A DO passes the COMLEX exam.

8. A DO often links unrelated symptoms to find the root cause of the problem.

9. A MD is likely to treat only the effected area.

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1 Comment

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

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