MD vs. DO

I know that this was discussed about a year ago, but the thread did not offer a lot of information.

Which is better, an osteopath or a medical doctor? Both of my family’s current doctors (pediatrician and family practicioner) are DO’s. I am completely confident in their abilities and we’re as happy with them as we have been with any other doctors. In fact, they are more pleasant than our most recent MD.

I’m just wondering if we’re short-changing our healthcare by using DO’s. What is the real difference? One person told me that a DO’s degree is “lower” than an MD’s. Somehow, that doesn’t seem right. I know I could just ask the doctor, but usually when I’m at the doctor’s office, I’m not feeling well and just want to take my pill and go home.

Thanks for your insight.

i don’t think the question of which is better can really be answered. As best as I remember, osteopaths have more of a a “hands on” focus in their training regarding the muscles and skeleton than MD’s but not as much as chiropractors.Whether that makes a difference after the training is another story.

The comment about the degree being lower than an MD could have something to do with schools of osteopathy being easier to get into than medical schools. I’ve been told this is true,but it may just be due to less competition ( the couple of people I knew who went to osteopathy schools went specifically because they didn’t get into medical school.)

You seem to have answered your own question. You go to who you are comfortable with.

I don’t even know where to begin. D.O’s are licensed dr’s and surgeons. Their philosphy is to treat the whole body not the ‘sick’ part, under the theory that defects in the the muscles, bones, and joints influence the natural function of internal organs.

D.O.s are licensed physicians and surgeons, who also receive additional extra training in musculoskeletal therapy and “total person wellness”. Their medical schools are virtually identical. That have to go to a four year licensed medical school (There are 16 in the US), one year of internship, two to five years of residency if they want to specialize. They are fully trained to practice in ALL branches of medicine and surgery.

I have found now a days DOs and MDs are virtually identical. My experience has been MDs are better doctors. I worked at an Osteopathic Hospital in a non medical postion and DOs as a whole are a LOT (and I mean A LOT) more friendly and less egotistical. MDs are better but in my experience not as friendly.

For questions like this, I go straight to Quackwatch. Its article on osteopathy tells you more than you ever wanted to know.

Dubious Aspects of Osteopathy

My synopsis is that osteopathy was founded in the 1870s based on some discredited ideas about how disease is caused by mechanical interference of bones, muscles, etc., and can be fixed by osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT).

But the path of osteopathy diverged from other medical fields founded on incorrect notions, such as chiropractic and homeopathy, because apparently osteopathy has an open mind and has adopted all the ideas of mainstream medicine. It sounds like DOs are almost the same generally as MDs, but you might need to be careful about getting one who recommens dubious treatments such as OMT and chelation therapy.

Enright3 - THANK YOU! My father is a licensed D.O., and the past 6 years of my life have been spent watching him try to overcome the incorrect stereotypes of the “M.D./D.O.” debate. D.O.s are NOT quacks. They do take a different oath from the Hippocratic oath taken by M.Ds (available at the website cited below). As Enright said, D.O.s don’t jump to diagnose a person’s sick “part”; they are concerned with general wellness and do have some extra manipulative (as in the physical kind) training - which, admittedly, is being used less. For example, my dad does not immediately prescribe medicine for an illness if there is a sign that it can be treated in a better fashion with something else. I can’t tell you how many bouts of laryngitis and bronchitis I endured in my childhood that were treated just fine with bed rest, a water vaporizer, and TLC…sometimes a little Robitussin or Dimetapp to help me with a particularly rough attack. As for the argument of D.O.s being a way of “short-changing” in your medical plan - that’s bull (not meant as a personal attack against the OP - just a general reaction). Please do yourself a favor and visit instead of jumping directly to Quackwatch. Note that the article was written by an M.D., so naturally he’s going to be a lot more critical of the “opposing camp.” (Does someone out there know of a basic independent article on the differences between the meds and the osteopaths, btw?) You’d do a lot better to do some basic research and discover that D.O.s are found and respected in every corner of the medical profession today.

Sorry if this crosses some boundaries accepted as flaming Pit material, but …GGGRRRRRRRRRR. sigh Long fight, isn’t it, Cecil?

In the sentence with the link - I meant to say, please visit that site as an alternative to Quackwatch’s page. Their article offers, as I said, a kind of one-sided approach to this issue.

The Quackwatch link explains the history of Osteopathy in the USA. Unfortunately, the story here in Europe is quite different. European osteopaths have not distanced themselves from their quackish roots. They are involved in every kind of alt med quackery imaginable, being not much different than many chiropractors in that regard. Unfortunately, some American DO’s are like their European counterparts.

A red flag (described on the Quackwatch site): cranio-sacral therapy (call it what you will). If you see any DO (or anyone else for that matter, authorized or not) dabbling with this unscientific woo-woo stuff, run the other way.

My general impression of D.O.'s is that, unlike (by and large) M.D.'s, where they got their training is very important. I grew up in Philly, which has a large and well-respected D.O. school, and the docs who came out of there are well-trained and (but for a few hard-core M.D.'s) well-respected. OTOH, D.O.s who got trained at other schools, and moved to Philly to take advantage of the tolerance/respect for D.O.s in our town had a relatively high percentage of quackery (though by no means the majority).


I think the idea that MDs are “unfriendly” and “focus on the disease, not the person” is just a prejudice. You can practice good medicine regardless of whether you train as an MD or a DO.

One area in which MD and DO education does seem to differ is in the emphasis given to research. I think that by most measures (e.g., total grants, number of Nobel prize winners, etc.) the average MD school produces a larger volume and quality of research than does the average DO school.

Of course, you may not think it matters whether or not the woman who takes out your gall bladder spent a semester in medical school purifying some enzyme in the lab of a Nobel prize winner.

A couple of the best physicians I know are DO’s. I know that by the time they are in practice that they are adequately trained (assuming they are board certified).

Gas, MD