Defining the Profession
An osteopathic physician is a person with full, unlimited medical practice rights and who has achieved the nationally recognized academic and professional standards within his or her country to practice diagnosis and provide treatment based upon the principles of osteopathic philosophy. Individual countries establish the national academic and professional standards for osteopathic physicians practicing within their countries.
An osteopath is a person who has achieved the nationally recognized academic and professional standards within his or her country to independently practice diagnosis and provide treatment based upon the principles of osteopathic philosophy. Individual countries establish the national academic and professional standards for osteopaths practicing within their countries.
Osteopathic Medicine and Osteopathy
Globally, two professional osteopathic streams have emerged, largely due to different legal and regulatory structures around the world: osteopathic physicians (practising osteopathic medicine) are doctors with full, unlimited medical practice rights and can specialise in any branch of medical care; osteopaths (practising osteopathy) are primary contact health providers with limited practice rights, and do not for example prescribe pharmaceuticals or perform surgery.
Andrew Taylor Still, MD, DO, developed osteopathic medicine in the United States in the mid- to late-1800s. An essential component of osteopathic health care is osteopathic manual therapy, typically called osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT).
Osteopathy and osteopathic medicine incorporate current medical and scientific knowledge in applying osteopathic principles to patient care. Scientific review and evidence-informed outcomes have a high priority in patient treatment and case management. Osteopathy recognizes that each patient’s clinical signs and symptoms are the consequences of the interaction of multiple physical and non-physical factors. Osteopathic care emphasizes the importance of the patient-practitioner relationship in the therapeutic process.
Osteopathic care incorporates a broad range of approaches to the maintenance of health and the management of disease. It embraces the concept of the unity of the individual’s structure (anatomy) and function (physiology). Osteopathy/osteopathic medicine is a person-centred approach to health care rather than disease-centred.
Osteopathic Practitioners By Country
From January to March 2013, the OIA carried out an informal survey in more than 30 countries where the osteopathic profession is known to be practised. The results of that survey, which were self-reported by the indicated organsations/sources, are presented in the table below. The survey will be carried out again periodically, and the information will be updated as appropriate. Further information may be available upon request.