When searching for a doctor, you may notice some physicians are listed as medical doctors (M.D.) while others are doctors of osteopathic medicine (D.O.); what’s the difference, and does it make a difference for you?

An M.D. and a D.O. have much in common. Both attend a four-year medical school and complete residency programs. But in medical school and residency, a D.O. will complete osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT). They are trained in hands-on treatment and methods used instead of prescribing medicine.

Dr. Suma Thomas, D.O., a provider at McLaren Health Care’s Mid-Michigan Physicians Family Medicine and Lipidology facility, explains how D.O.s treat the entire body: muscles, bones, fascia, tissues, lymph nodes and more.

“We are able to treat the whole body to help with symptoms, from joint disorders to asthma or sinus problems,” said Thomas.

While D.O.s receive training in OMT, an M.D. receives more traditional training. Medical doctors can also choose to go back to school and receive additional training in OMT.  Doctors of osteopathic medicine can be found in every area of medicine including surgery, cardiology and primary care, among others.

OMT can be beneficial for all ages, even newborns. However, Thomas said there are some cases that would not benefit from manipulation.

“We run a variety of tests on the patients before we perform manipulation treatment. We want to make sure that we are treating the correct area and that the patient doesn’t have a fracture or fever, which is a symptom of an infection,” Thomas said. “If a patient has an infection and we treat that area, it could cause the infection to spread.”

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