Here's The Difference Between An MD And A DO

Often when we visit a doctor for medical treatment, that person will have the initials "MD" after their name. Sometimes, however, they might have "DO" instead. Even though both types of medical professionals are addressed by the title "doctor," this might be a little confusing. Most people wonder if they are even equally qualified to treat their condition. If so, just what is the distinction between these two designations?

The first thing that's important to know is that both MDs and DOs are fully qualified to diagnose and treat you. According to Healthline, they actually receive much of the same training. This includes four years of medical school as well as completing a residency program in their desired area of specialization. However, there are some differences, but these will not negatively affect the quality of your care. The differences rely more upon philosophy and how that might guide your treatment.

How MDs and DOs differ

MD is a Doctor of Medicine, while a DO is a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, according to MedicineNet. An MD's approach to treatment is to use medication or surgery to cure or treat a disease. A DO, on the other hand, takes more of a holistic approach, focusing on the entire body. They may also include alternative therapies in their practice.

DOs must complete an additional 200 hours of training beyond what an MD does, focusing on how the bones, muscles, and nerves influence health, as per Healthline. Osteopathic practitioners believe that problems in the musculoskeletal system can manifest as illness throughout the body. This training, according to the Cleveland Clinic, allows them to perform osteopathic manipulation treatment (OMT) to correct imbalances, improve circulation, and relieve pain.

Both MDs and DOs must pass a national test to become licensed doctors and are eligible to sit for the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). DOs also have the option of taking the Comprehensive Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX), which is more geared toward osteopathic medicine. Both cover the same material other than the additional material regarding osteopathy that is found on the COMLEX.