Back Pain Clinicians: Osteopaths

Osteopaths are Doctors of Osteopathy. They are graduated of medical school with specialties in osteopathic medicine. The classroom course load is similar to medical doctors, and osteopaths may share in the same clinical as medical doctors. Like medical doctor (MDs), osteopaths are healthcare providers who can work in hospitals and outlying clinics, prescribe medicine, and perform surgery. Osteopathic physicians, unlike physician's assistants and nurse practitioners, are not limited in what types of medical services they can provide. Basically, they can do everything in the hospital a medical doctor can do. Osteopathic physicians, upon completion of their schooling and licensure, are given the title of Doctors of Osteopathy (D.O.).

So what are some of the differences between Medical Doctors and Doctors of Osteopathy? The biggest difference between the two doctors is the amount of encouragement they give for holistic medicine and alternative therapies. Let me put it bluntly. Osteopaths are more likely to encourage patient to try alternative therapies while medical doctors are more like to view alternative therapies in the same way they would snake oil salesmen. Medical doctors, if challenged on the benefits of alternative therapies, will point out the many research papers in the medical literature of the few, if any, clinical benefits of alternative therapies.



Osteopaths, on the other hand, are more likely to offer traditional medical treatments for back pain disorders as well as complementary therapies such as acupuncture, massage, and spinal manipulations.

Unlike doctors, osteopaths are trained to perform manipulations of the spine and soft tissues of the joints to correct dislocations and locking of the joints. Osteopaths believe that for the whole body to be balanced and healthy, all the individual units of the body must be in balance. To this end, DOs are trained to recognize and correct imbalances in the body through manual adjustments of the joints, among other structures. Osteopaths think that when the musculoskeletal structures of the body are out of balance, it may affect other body systems, including cardiovascular healthy, lymphatic drainage, and neurologic health. Manipulative treatments, performed by chiropractors, are aimed loosening trigger points in muscles and bringing bones and joints back into their proper position. Osteopaths use the following treatment techniques in order to re-establish balance among the bones and structures of the musculoskeletal system.

  • Balanced Tension: Increased and chronic tension in the muscles and soft tissues can affect the other connected structures and prevent the body from being able to heal itself naturally. Balanced tension techniques can be done to reduce heightened and chronic tension to certain tissues and structures. Joints, fascia covering muscles and membranes, and ligaments are often identified as areas of increased tension that may respond well to balanced tension treatments.
  • Biodynamics: Biodynamics teaches patients certain breathing techniques to reduce stress and promote the healing process in the body.
  • Counterstrain: Counterstrain is a technique that is used to identify and treat areas of tension of tightness in the muscles or joints that are preventing movement of causing pain. To perform this technique, the doctor pulls into and holds patients in certain position to reduce tension in areas. The positions patients are brought to breaks up the tightness and enable the body to heal itself.
  • Embryologic Matrix
  • Fascial and Myofascial Release
  • HVLA (High Velocity Low Amplitude Treatment)
  • Lateral Fluctuation
  • Muscle Energy
  • Persussion