The osteopathic philosophy recognizes that the musculoskeletal system comprises over 60% of the body and that there is a relationship between body structure and organ functioning, giving a broader base for the treatment of the patient as a whole. Another integral tenet of osteopathic medicine is the body's innate ability to heal itself. Many of osteopathic medicine's manipulative techniques are aimed at reducing or eliminating the impediments to proper structure and function so the self-healing mechanism can assume its role in restoring the person to health.
OMT is composed of structural and manipulative techniques that today's osteopathic physicians may use to alleviate pain, restore freedom of motion, and enhance the body's own healing power. Often these techniques are used in conjunction with more conventional forms of medical care, such as prescribing medication and performing surgery. The following are some of the most commonly used manipulative procedures: articulatory techniques, counterstrain, cranial treatment, myrfascial release treatment, lympathic techniques, soft tissue techniques, and thrust techniques.
Osteopathic physicians, better known as D.O.s, work in partnership with their patients. They consider the impact that lifestyle and community have on the health of each individual, and they work to erase barriers to good health.
D.O.s are trained to look at the whole person from their first day of medical school, which means they see each person as more than just a collection of body parts that may become injured or diseased. D.O.s are taught that the whole person is greater than the sum of the parts.
This means that osteopathic medical students learn how to integrate the patient into the health care process as a partner. They are trained to communicate with people from diverse backgrounds and they get the opportunity to practice these skills in the classroom with simulated patients.
Because of this whole-person approach to medicine, approximately 60% of all D.O.s choose to practice in the primary care disciplines of family practice, general internal medicine, and pediatrics. While D.O.s account for only 5% of the country's physicians, they handle 10% of all primary care visits.
Osteopathic medical students take courses in all of the subject areas one would expect any physician to master including anatomy, physiology, microbiology, histology, osteopathic principles and practices (including osteopathic manipulative medicine), pharmacology, clinical skills, doctor/patient communication, and systems courses that focus on each major system of the body such as cardiology, respiratory, genitourinary, etc.
Many osteopathic colleges have students assigned to work with physicians beginning early in the first year. This process continues throughout the second year in conjunction with the basic sciences courses listed above.
In the third and fourth years, osteopathic medical students spend time learning about and exploring the major specialities in medicine.
One unique aspect of the osteopathic student's education is how these rotations are conducted in community hospitals and physicians' offices across the country. Because few osteopathic colleges have their own hospital, the schools partner with community hospitals across the country to deliver the third and fourth year curriculum as well as internship and residency training. This consortium model of medical education developed by the osteopathic profession has been touted as the new model for all medical education. Current pilot studies are being developed on an national level to evaluate this model of medical education.