Since Dr. Andrew Taylor Still opened the American School of Osteopathy in 1892, osteopathic medicine has focused on preventive care and the body's natural ability to heal itself. A doctor of osteopathic medicine, or DO, emphasizes the relationship between the musculoskeletal system and the blood vessels and nerves of the body. This holistic approach is fundamental to the practice, as osteopaths treat the whole person rather than just dealing with individual symptoms, body systems and organs.
Like a medical doctor, doctors of osteopathy attend medical school for four years and are licensed to prescribe medication, use technology to diagnose disease, evaluate injury and perform surgery. To pursue this specialty though, a doctor needs to undergo 300 to 500 additional hours of training in hands-on manipulation of the musculoskeletal system.
Though still making up only a small proportion of the total practicing physician population, today more than 1 in 5 students in medical school are training to be osteopathic doctors, according to the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine. DOs work in areas such as obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics and internal medicine.