As long as there’s a diploma on the wall, most people don’t grill their doctor about their education and professional philosophy — but you should. The letters that appear after your doctor’s name say a lot about the type of care you can expect.
Richard Bernstein, DO — our expert doctor of osteopathic medicine here at Santa Cruz Osteopathic in Capitola, California — fields questions all the time about the difference between an MD and a DO, and he’s happy to talk about it. He chose osteopathy because, after a traumatic cycling accident, he learned firsthand how this branch of medicine differs in some very important ways from other approaches.
Here are five reasons you should choose an osteopathic physician like Dr. Bernstein.
1. DOs undergo extensive education
Osteopathic doctors spend the same amount of time in medical school as their counterparts, allopathic doctors (MDs). Both specialities require a pre-med undergraduate track, MCAT exams, and four years of rigorous medical school plus 3-5 years of residency. DOs and MDs have to pass the same state licensing exams in order to practice medicine.
DOs, however, complete an additional 200 hours of coursework to specialize in osteopathic manual medicine, or osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT). This supplementary training allows them to diagnose injuries and illnesses and help your body tap into its natural ability to heal itself.
2. DOs emphasize prevention
Although all types of doctors believe prevention of disease and injury is important, osteopathic physicians prioritize it. Dr. Bernstein partners with you to identify lifestyle habits and fledgling medical concerns that could turn into major problems in the future. His goal is to keep you and your family healthy so you can avoid medical conditions that you may be at risk for.
3. DOs treat the person, not just the disease
One of the greatest differences between a traditional MD and a DO is the philosophy with which they approach their patients. MDs are typically trained to treat diseases and injuries, while DOs are trained to treat patients.
While the subtle difference in language may seem insignificant at first glance, the contrast is stark when put into practice. When Dr. Bernstein meets you for the first time, he considers all the aspects of your physical body, emotional state, and the environment you live in.
For example, if you come in with a painful knee, he doesn’t just treat the anatomical knee; he treats you by exploring the underlying factors that contributed to your pain, which may include your diet, your job, or your gait. This mirrors the approach that Hippocrates, the “father of medicine,” advocated.
4. DOs believe the body systems are interconnected
Doctors who are trained to focus on a symptom or disease may suffer from tunnel vision in their approach. Doctors of osteopathy expand their perspective and consider how all of your body’s systems affect one another. For instance, Dr. Bernstein may identify a problem in your musculoskeletal system that’s causing a disturbance in your vascular system or nervous system.
5. DOs prefer self-healing over medication when possible
Although DOs are fully qualified to prescribe medications, they don’t use drugs as a first course of treatment. Dr. Bernstein explores ways to enable your body to do what it was designed to do — heal itself. This may take the form of OMT, regenerative medicine, or spinal decompression therapy to promote self-repair.
When to choose a DO
Choose a DO when you have any physical pain, illness, or disease, including, but not limited to:
Dr. Bernstein can often relieve your symptoms and restore your health without drugs or surgery. When those treatments are necessary, he may be able to reduce your need for them with other modalities first.
If the osteopathic approach matches your philosophy of personal, natural, whole-body care backed by science, we invite you to come in to meet Dr. Bernstein and learn more. To schedule an appointment, call us at 831-464-1605 or use our online booking tool.