Osteopathic Medicine — a Distinctive Branch of Mainstream Medicine
I am constantly asked what Osteopathic Medicine is, and if I am the same as a chiropractor. First, the easy question: I am not the same as a chiropractor. Chiropractors are not medical doctors, our training is vastly different, and while I can do what a chiropractor does, I can do much more.
An osteopathic doctor is a medical doctor and takes the same pre-medical program as an MD (allopathic physician) and the same primary courses in medical school. They have all the same specialties as allopathic physicians. An osteopathic physician is trained extensively in musculoskeletal medicine in order to learn and practice osteopathic manipulative medicine. There are many forms of manipulation that we can do. Chiropractors do high-velocity manipulation: that pop and crunch effect you hear when you go there. Some of them are learning osteopathic techniques.
Many osteopathic physicians stress the entire body and its role in health, as well as the role of nutrition, environmental and emotional factors that affect health. That is how we are all trained. Because we learn and do manipulation, we start physical exam skills in our first year (often the first week) of medical school. Additionally, we consider the body to be inter-communicative; by that, I mean that the body is a unit, with each part affecting other parts and being affected the same.
Therefore, a patient with a bowel problem probably has other issues with their health; i.e., you cannot treat an organ in isolation. So this is how the origin of our statement about treating the body as a whole unit, and using holistic care, came into use.
We also recognize what we call somatic-visceral and visceral-somatic pathways. This comes from the knowledge that at the spinal level there are interactions between the parasympathetic and sympathetic systems with the cutaneous nerves. This creates a connection whereby one affects the other. If someone has an ulcer in the stomach, we will find a corresponding somatic dysfunction at the spinal level.
Since I feel that the body is one contiguous organ, which includes the brain, I expect that my patients will want to be part of the solution to their health problems.
Gail Dudley, D.O.