Difference Between MD and DO

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    medical-563427_640MD vs DO

    Understanding the abbreviations of medical degrees often becomes very difficult, especially for patients. Each and every medical degree has its own domain or specialty of practice area which is clearly demarcated. The treatment profile, principle of intervention and diagnosis, care management approaches also vary across various specialties. One such confusing area is to understand the practice domain of an DO and MD. As per medical guidelines DO refers to Doctor of Osteopathy. On the other hand MD refers to Doctor of Medicine. These are professional medical degrees and the individuals who acquire these degrees or practices under the domain of these two degrees enjoy an equal status and quality of life. Moreover the duration of medical schooling and the term period for internship is also the same. Completion of these two phases of study helps them to acquire a practicing degree in the field of medical sciences.

    Both these degrees need to be pursued under a stipulated curriculum. However, the set up of receiving such degrees differ from place to place. In pursuing Doctor of Osteopathy, individuals are exposed to specialized schools for osteopathic medicine. On the other hand, individuals who are pursuing their Doctor of Medicine attend regular medical schools. The philosophy of Osteopathy is to assess the patient holistically. The Osteopaths needs to investigate various organic causes for a specific disease. Hence, osteopaths incorporate care strategies that are beneficial for the relief of symptoms of a disease. Individuals who acquire a MD degree, relies on specific diagnosis and treatment for a disease. Their principle of care does not incorporate a holistic approach. Hence, these individuals provide treatment based on evidenced based pharmacologic interventions and surgical interventions for alleviating the disease of the patient, rather than the symptoms of the disease.


    The individuals with DO degree intervenes with body manipulations which mostly similar to chiropractitioners. However, individuals with MD degree do not intervene with body manipulations. Thus osteopaths are medical practitioners who intervene with alternative medicine and manipulations. Some of the techniques used by Osteopaths include acupressure, physical therapy and manipulations of muscle and bones to provide immediate relief. Osteopaths are effective for musculoskeletal ailments. A brief comparison of both the specialties is described below:

    Features DO MD
    Abbreviation for Doctor of Osteopathy Doctor of Medicine
    Specializes in Musculoskeletal ailments are the priority area of practice Medical ailments like diabetes, infections, cardiovascular and kidney and Gastrointestinal diseases.
    Formal Education Specialized schools Medical Schools
    Treatment philosophy Relies on holistic care of a patient Relies on specific care and as required intervenes with medical therapy or surgery
    Body manipulations performed Yes No
    Intervention strategies acupressure, physical therapy and manipulations of muscle and bones to provide immediate relief Evidence based medical or surgical guidelines
    Pathological tests Does not relies too much for diagnosis Relies on pathological reports to initiate treatments
    Evidence Based Yes, but lack of improper documentation Yes, and heavily supplemented by proper documentations
    Objective of treatment Return the homeostasis of bodily functions back to normal Return the homeostasis of bodily functions back to normal. However, if homeostasis cannot be revived they treat patients with supportive therapies which helps patients to live their life in spite of medical and physical challenges
    Recommendations in Pneumonia Chest physiotherapy is not recommended as per evidence based literature Ample evidence supports MD’s should intervene in pneumonia
    Evidence for practice in paediatric settings Yes No
    Effectiveness of treatment Data regarding effectiveness is unclear and insufficient. However, they are one of the preferred choices in relieve of musculoskeletal pain and ligament injury Medicine is the most effective treatment documented in various clinical guidelines. MD’s have the technical expertise of treating a wide range of medical conditions including treatment for musculoskeletal disorders.

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