American Osteopathic Association (AOA)

The American Osteopathic Association (website is the representative organization for over 70,000 osteopathic medical physicians (D.O.s) in the US. The purpose of the American Osteopathic Association is to provide information about the educational and clinical experiences that Osteopaths need to practice primary care medicine and in specialty clinics in American hospitals and clinics. The AOA website search tools to help patients find a DO (Doctor of Osteopathic medicine) in their area. Here is a summary of information found on the AOA website.

What is a DO?

What is a DO, and how is a do different from a MD. Well, to begin with, there are few differences between DOs and MDs in terms of years of schooling, clinical experience, and qualifications to perform medical services. Both DOs and MDs can run their own clinics, order and read any types of medical tests given in healthcare settings, perform patients physicals, and write prescriptions for medications. Basically, osteopaths can do anything medical doctors do, after receiving the appropriate training.

What are some of the differences? Osteopaths, unlike medical doctors, are educated in the fundamentals of alternative medical systems such as Naturopathy, herbalism, Ayurveda, and Anthroposophic medicine. Most forms of alternative medical systems us Eastern holistic healing philosophies designed to promote healing of musculoskeletal dysfunction through naturalistic therapies. Medical doctors, though they do not necessarily discouraging patients from practicing eastern healing therapies such as herbalism, are not trained in those areas, and not qualified to make recommendations either way. Osteopaths recommendations of eastern back pain treatments such as Ayurveda (yoga) can be complicating, because even though they may encourage those practices, most insurance companies will not pay for them. Usually, all treatments and tests that medical doctors prescribe and ordered will be covered by the patient's health insurance.

DOs (Osteopaths): Osteopath hands on manipulation of patient's spine and soft tissues to promote healing. Osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) is practices by osteopaths to manually guide the segments of the spine, as well as other soft tissues of the musculoskeletal system, back into proper alignment. The DO gently manually adjusts the soft tissues of back to improve the patient's physiologic function and to bring the body back into homeostasis that has been altered by somatic dysfunction. The somatic nervous system is the part of the peripheral nervous system associated with conscious voluntary control of the body via skeletal muscles. Somatic dysfunction is defined as altered or impaired structural integrity of the one or more structures of the musculoskeletal system or their functional ability to work properly. Somatic dysfunction may be acute or chronic, and may alter the patients ability to move in a pain-free way and with healthy postural techniques.

If a patients experiences back pain or joints pain related to impairment of healthy somatic functioning, they may apply the following methods to restore balance back to the patient's body: Active Method, Passive Method, Direct Method (D/DIR), and the Indirect Method (I/IND). These methods may include manipulations of the patient's body by the DO to restore somatic function, instructions from the doctor to the patient on how to do various exercises at home to restore balance, or a combination of manipulative therapies and instruction.