Osteopathic Doctors Rising in Number

September 1, 2018


Recent research by the American Osteopathic Association shows that the number of DOs (doctors of osteopathy) has more than tripled since 1990. With one in four medical students currently training to become a DO, that figure is expected to double by 2030, making osteopathic medicine is one of the fastest-growing health care professions in the country.

Now accounting for some 10 percent of doctors nationwide, DOs practice a form of medicine that involves on more holistic approaches to health care and hands-on types of treatment. Osteopathy is a drug-free, non-invasive manual therapy that focuses on the joints, muscles and spine with an aim to improve health across all body systems by manipulating and strengthening the musculoskeletal framework. It’s proven effective for treating conditions including:

  • Arthritis
  • Headaches
  • Foot, ankle, hip, and knee pain.
  • Back pain, neck pain, and sciatica.
  • Hand, shoulder, and elbow pain.
  • Tennis and golfer's elbow.
  • Postural problems due to pregnancy, sports injury, driving or work strain, or digestive issues
  • Neuralgia

Osteopathy originated in 1874 with Andrew Taylor Still, MD, DO, a controversial 19th century doctor, Kansas state and territorial legislator and co-founder of Baker University. He held a view common to early 19th century proponents of alternative medicine, supporting the idea that the body's natural state tends toward health and inherently contains the capacity to battle any harmful threats to health in the body. This view was in direct opposition to that of the orthodox practitioner, which held that intervention by the physician was necessary to restore health in the patient.

For nearly a century – and still today, to some degree – osteopathic medicine was considered by many to be a dubious form of practice. Since 1973, however, DOs have been fully recognized as doctors in all 50 states. Today, many DOs practice side-by-side with MDs, offering patients a combination of conventional and holistic care. This is proving increasingly popular as today’s health-savvy patients demand treatment options that require less medication.

If you’re considering an osteopathic practice, consider these promising statistics:

  • As of 2017, there are 108,118 DOs practicing in the US, up from 30,990 in 1990.
  • Today, there are 137,099 medical students enrolled in osteopathic programs in the US, with enrollment increasing approximately 25 percent every five years.
  • Providing instruction at 49 teaching locations in 32 states, colleges of osteopathic medicine are helping underserved regions where doctors are in short supply.
  • The osteopathic medical profession has a long tradition of serving in primary care specialties where patients lack doctors – 32.4 percent practice in family medicine, 17 percent in internal medicine and 6.7 percent in pediatrics.
  • As of 2017, roughly 44 percent of DOs practice in non-primary care, helping to meet the growing demand for physicians in certain specialties including emergency medicine, anesthesiology, obstetrics and gynecology, general surgery and psychiatry.

For DO students, a top requirement is successfully passing the COMLEX exams. WOLFPACC offers a series of COMLEX review courses designed to help you ace your exams on the first attempt. Call 904-209-3140 to find out how.