WHAT IS OSTEOPATHIC MEDICINE
So, as you know, I am a doctor. I went to medical school, completed a residency in family medicine, and even did a special residency or what’s known as a fellowship, in Sports Medicine.
In addition, I’m a D.O. which stands for Doctor of Osteopathy, opposed to an M.D. which stands for Medical Doctor. I get this question all the time…
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A D.O. AND AN M.D.?
So the quick answer is…nothing. Once again, we all have graduated from a medical school. We all have to pass our medical boards, and we all are required to have a license to practice medicine.
The long answer is, as a Doctor of Osteopathy, I went to an Osteopathic Medical school which teaches the principles of Osteopathic Medicine in addition to all the clinical and subject knowledge that an Allopathic (that’s the M.D.) Medical School teaches.
WHAT IS OSTEOPATHIC MEDICINE AND WHY DOES IT MATTER?
Here’s what I learned in Osteopathic Medical School. I learned a holistic way to approach being a doctor beyond just prescribing a medicine or performing a medical procedure to heal someone of disease and illness. We throw the word “holistic” around a lot, but what does this really mean? Well, what it means to me is that I believe that the body is not just muscles, it’s not just bones, it’s not just blood vessels, it’s not just the brain, the spinal cord, and the central nervous system. The body is a unit. This unit is capable of healing itself. In order for the body to heal itself, though, everything has to work together. If something is out of place, it’s going to affect that healing process. What is great about this approach is that we get to the root cause of pain and illness rather than using a band-aid solution like a prescription.
Using Osteopathy on a Sprained Ankle
Let’s take the example of an ankle sprain. Let’s say I decide to take up my friend’s invitation to play basketball at 6 am on Wednesday with a group of guys from church. I wake up early and go to the gym. I play for 20 minutes and all of a sudden, I come down from a rebound on my friend’s foot and…”pop” goes my right ankle. Immediately, I know I’ve sprained my ankle. I hobble over to the side and tell the guys “Sorry but I’m done.” Hours later my ankle swells up like a grapefruit. I have pain, and I can hardly walk on the ankle so I have to start limping by putting pressure on the other foot.
Okay, so now my body needs to heal this sprained ankle of mine, which is actually small tearing of the ligaments of the ankle. So, the body is starting the healing process immediately after the injury which is where the swelling comes into play. But everyone knows that I need to make sure that the swelling gets reduced. I’m going to raise my foot up, wrap my ankle and apply ice so I can reduce that swelling, right? So, the system that helps that swelling go down is called the Lymphatic System. But what happens if my Lymphatic System is not working right. Then the swelling might take longer to go down. One of the ways we use Osteopathy is to treat the Lymphatic System, and I can use my manipulation skills to help the body’s Lymphatic System to work better.
Next, I have to rehabilitate the ankle. Well, I think it’s pretty clear that anti-inflammatories are not going to rehabilitate an ankle. Maybe they help the pain, but they’re not really going to do much of the actual healing. How about some exercises? So, the first exercise I can do to help my sprained ankle is improving the range of motion of the foot and ankle. What if my range of motion was already poor before I sprained my ankle? Well, I know that Osteopathy can help someone who has tight muscles and decreased range of motion. Finally, I know I have to rehabilitate my balance. I can do some balance exercises on my foot, but that means that my nervous system has to work properly to send signals to and from my foot so that my body can relearn how to balance on that foot. If I have impairments in that nervous system, Osteopathy can assist with restoring that normal function to help me to properly balance on the foot again.
I like this example because it shows how as Osteopaths we can use our hands to help the body heal itself. You can also see how this is a more holistic approach to medicine than me simply telling a patient with an ankle sprain to take some anti-inflammatories and doing some exercises.
Hopefully, now this provides a more clear picture of what a D.O. is and the difference between D.O.s and M.D.s. For more information about our practice at Meeting Point Health, call the office at 215.315.3964. You can also schedule a consultation online at www.meetingpointhealth.com.