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New Ulm Medical Center

MD versus DO: What exactly is an osteopathic physician?

To make an appointment with Dr. Andert, call 507-217-5011.

Bryana Andert, DO, is quite literally more hands-on than most doctors. That's because she's an osteopathic physician.

"The most unique aspect of the field is our training in understanding the musculoskeletal system and in manipulating that system to promote balance so that the body can heal itself," said Andert, an osteopathic family medicine doctor at New Ulm Medical Center. "From the beginning of our training, we're taught to put a larger emphasis on understanding the whole body and person, along with the mechanics of the body and the interaction of all its parts."

Seeing “MD” after a physician's name may be more familiar to patients, however an osteopathic physician, or DO, is in most ways no different. Osteopathic physicians receive the same medical school training and education as MDs, and can prescribe medications, practice specialty medicine and perform surgeries. But in addition to traditional medical training, osteopathic physicians also zero in on a "mind-body-spirit approach," Andert said.

"Everything is connected and we keep that in mind in our approach to patient care," she said.

But what osteopathic physicians are best known for is their unique knowledge of the musculoskeletal system and their ability to use their hands to detect, manipulate and adjust problems within the musculoskeletal system. Andert described such work as a combination of a chiropractor, a physical therapist and a massage therapist. This knowledge, combined with a heightened focus on the whole person, results in unique solutions to ailments that go beyond typical musculoskeletal issues.

For example, Andert said, take the common cold. To increase sinus flow and decrease congestion, Andert might massage certain areas of the head and neck to promote fluid drainage. For a more serious condition such as pneumonia, in which the lungs may not be moving as well as they should, Andert may manipulate the ribs, back and diaphragm to help the lungs open more fully. Of course, such work is all done in combination with more traditional medical services and prescriptions.

Andert said she uses musculoskeletal manipulation in about 25 percent of the patients she sees. Other osteopathic physicians may use it with every patient.

"It just depends on the kind of practice you have," she said.

Andert noted that among the biggest misconceptions is that osteopathic physicians only practice naturopathic medicine or only offer musculoskeletal manipulation. That's simply not true, she noted. Osteopathic physicians are found within every medical specialty, can offer any service an MD can, and often serve as people's primary care doctors.

Still, Andert said that an osteopathic physician may indeed be more open-minded to solutions outside of traditional medicine.

"We strive to take a well-rounded approach to whatever illness or concern you're having," Andert said.

Source: New Ulm Medical Center - Health Edition
Reviewed by: Bryana Andert, DO
First Published: 05/01/2013
Last Reviewed: 05/01/2013