Frequently Asked Questions

What is a D.O.?

D.O. stands for a doctor of osteopathic medicine. Osteopathic medicine is a unique form of American medical care that was develped in 1874 by Dr. Andrew Taylor Still. Dr. Still was dissatisfied with the effectiveness of 19th Century medicine. He believed that many of the medications of his day were useless or even harmful. Dr. Still was one of the first of his time to study the attributes of good health so that he could better understand the process of disease.

Dr. Still founded a philosophy of medicine based on ideas that date back to Hippocrates, the father of medicine. The philosophy focuses on the unity of all body parts. He identified the musculoskeletal system as a key element of health. He recognized the body's ability to heal itself and stressed preventative medicine, eating properly and keeping fit.

D.O.'s practice a "whole person" approach to medicine. Instead of just treating specific symptoms or illnesses, they regard your body as an integrated whole. Osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) is incorporated in the training and practice of osteopathic physicians. With OMT, osteopathic physicians use their hands to diagnose injury or illness and to encourage your body's natural tendency toward good health.

What is the difference between a D.O. and a M.D.?

Applicants to both D.O. and M.D. medical colleges typically have a four year undergraduate degree with an emphasis on scientific courses. They both have to complete four years of basic medical education and can choose to practice in a specialty area of medicine. They both must pass comparable state licensing examinations and practice in fully accredited licensed health care facilities.

The extra training that D.O.'s receive in the musculoskeletal system provides them with a better understanding of the ways that an injury or illness in one part of your body can affect another. D.O.'s are able to combine today's technology with their ears, to listen caringly to their patients; their eyes, to see their patients as whole persons; and their hands, to diagnose and treat injury as well as illness.

What is a physiatrist?

A physiatrist, pronounced fizz ee at'trist, is a physician specializing in physial medicine and rehabilitation. The specialty serves all age groups and treats problems that touch upon all the major systems in the body.

Physiatrists treat a wide range of problems from sore shoulders to spinal cord injuries. The focus of the specialty is on restoring function to people. Physiatrists treat acute and chronic and musculoskeletal disorders. They may see a person who lifts a heavy object at work and strains their low back, a basketball player who sprains an ankle, or a knitter who has carpal tunnel syndrome. Physiatrist's patients also include people with arthritis, tendonitis, any kind of neck or back pain, and work or sports related injuries. 

A physiatrist may treat patients directly, lead an interdisciplinary team, or act as a consultant. Their diagnostic tools are the same as those used by other physicians, with the addition of special techniques in electrodiagnostic medicine like electromyography (EMG), nerve conduction studies and somatosensory evoked potentials. These techniques help the physiatrist to diagnose conditons that cause pain, weakness and numbness.

Physiatrists offer a broad spectrum of medical services. They do not perform surgery. Physiatrists may prescribe drugs or assistive devices and also use divers therapies such as heat and cold, electrotherapies, massage, biofeedback, traction and therapeutic exercise.

A physiatrist's goal is to restore patients to maximum function and the difference they make can be dramatic. They can treat an acute injury until the patient returns to optimal function and teach them how to prevent the injury in the future. A physiatrist is concerned with all areas of rehabilitation: social, vocational and medical. This approach can significantly increase the quality of life for patients.