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

Many people go to the “doctor” and not realize that they may have been treated by an MD or a DO. Both are doctors, both require virtually identical training, except that the DO learns more about the musculoskeletal system and ways to daignoze and treat problems there. The question then arises, "Is a DO More knowledgeable when compared to an MD? When does the DO/MD become what they will be for the duration of their practice? Is it during Medical school? (Ostepathic doctors learn a “holistic” approach to patient care) Is it during residency?(Many DO’s complete their residency side by side in the same program as MD’s and Harvard (MD) offers courses on spinal manipulation). IS there any distinction in 2010 between the two specialties, as different as they were in the 1800’s?

An MD is a medical doctor whereas a DO is a doctor of osteopathy. Both follow similar training and teaching regimes with the DO focusing more on skeletal manipulation. I’ll let others discuss the whys and wherefores of that. DO’s also go to DO schools rather than MD schools. That is, schools expressly set up for DO training.

DOs are trained in osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM), but they otherwise receive pretty much exactly the same training as an MD. These days, few DOs actually use OMM in their daily practice, though some do get more into the whole “holistic” thing than an MD would. While there are some schools specifically set up for osteopathic studies, my father (who was a DO) went to the same school and was even in the same classes as the MDs for much of his training. An MD has to pass the USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Exam) and a DO has to pass the COMLEX (Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Exam).

Aside from OMM, a DO isn’t any more or less trained than an MD.

Even though their training is virtually identical (with the exception of OMM), some people have the opinion that DOs are kinda like chiropractors and aren’t “real” doctors, or are at least somehow inferior to an MD.

Outside of the US, the difference between an MD and a DO can be much more significant.

D.O.s get roughly the same training as M.D.s and are as qualified in general.

I disagree that D.O.s have any greater knowledge of the “musculoskeletal system” or that they are more “holistic” (my crock detector went off loudly when I read that one). The only significant difference between D.O.s and M.D.s that I know of relates to performing spinal manipulation, and I doubt that all D.O.s perform manipulation as part of their practices (particularly those that go on to train in medical specialties).

I have to believe that DO’s do know a bit more musculoskeletal wise; or, perhaps, they have that more of a slant on their training. Two anecdotes: 1. X years ago, I was having some problems. I went to 3 or 4 MD’s, who, basically, just asked me questions, and prescribed me some llimp meds. I went to a DO, and he Xrayed me, and diagnosed arthritis. The other doctors didn’t even bother with the x rays. 2. My mom had a stroke. In addition to the immobility that came with it, her arm joint froze. Her arm regained its use, but her joint was still locked. Took her to MD orthopedic specialist, and he just shook his head. Took her to a DO orth. spec., he had her arm back to normal in 2 days. Forget MD’s is my theory.
Point being, their perspective in re: musculoskeletal gives them a more complete background with which to treat one.

I thought the main difference was that M.D.s do surgery while D.O.s do other things.

I think a large part of the confusion focuses on the word “doctor”

I perfer to use the term Physican. No one confuses this

A doctor can mean a psychologist, a phd, a veterinarian, an optometrist, a podiatrist, a chiropractor or even dentist can be called doc, not to mention certain dwarves :slight_smile:

But if you use the term physican, most people are clear on that.

In the USA and Canada, there is little difference between the two. My first job was in the reception area of an ER in an Osteopathic Hospital, and now-a-days there is very little difference.

Outside of the USA and Canada, the difference between an MD and an Osteopath is huge.

Most of the time to limit confusion they refere to an Osteopath with training equal to and MD as an OSTEOPATHIC PHYSICAN and not simply an Osteopath.

My D.O. father did general surgery for 40 years.

That’s twice mentioned the difference outside the US (and Canada) between physicians and D.O.s is huge. Why?

In the US, the MD and DO are both fully-fledged physicians. Under non-US programs, this is not necessarily the case.

We did this in September: Are Osteopaths legit?

I’ve selected Osteopaths as my own personal physicians more than once in the past. The good ones are as good as about any good MD. The bad ones are as bad as about any bad MD.

The doctor who did my back surgery is a D.O.; I have no complaints at all, other than the small but nagging pain he said I would have.

To be frank, DO graduates from American DO schools are, on average, significantly less competitive than MD graduates from American MD schools. The differences between MD and DO graduates within a given specialty are significantly smaller. In other words, DO’s may cluster to less competitive specialties but they may approach the residency-application qualifications for MD’s within that specialty.

However, it is not clear if the differences in the “quality,” of applicants to a residency program translate to any meaningful clinical differences. There are great DO’s in every specialty, variation between physicians within the MD or DO class swamp the variation between the mean DO and MD physician quality, etc.

My mother worked for a DO since the 70s. IIRC, many of the big insurance companies did not give the same recognition ( read: payment) for DOs as they did for MDs. I think that in the mid 80s they started to loosen up, and by the 90s, all of the insurance cos. said that they were about the same.
IIRC, of course.


Not all M.D.s are qualified to perform any surgery. An MD needs further specialized education to perform surgery. An MD can become a general surgeon, a neural surgeon, a thoracic surgeon, an orthopedic surgeon, etc. I don’t know, but I suppose it is the same with DOs.