A medical doctor practices allopathic medicine that focuses on diagnosing and treating diseases, and an osteopath performs holistic medicine focusing on the whole body to diagnose and heal patients rather than treating just the symptoms. Osteopathic physicians mainly specialize in primary care and internal medicine, states Piedmont Healthcare.
Osteopathic and medical doctors both complete four years of medical school, and then an O.D. receives between 300 and 500 additional hours of specialized training on the skeletal system and in osteopathic manipulative treatment, a form of massage and body manipulation for the treatment of diseases. Following medical school, both disciplines complete specialized graduate medical education through residencies, fellowships and internships for an additional three to eight years, says the American Osteopathic Association.
In 1845, the American Medical Association created the standards for the Doctor of Medicine degree for M.D. physicians, with the first residency program created in 1930. By contrast, the first osteopathic degree program was not established until 1892. As of 2012, there were 26 D.O. schools versus 137 M.D. schools in the United States, and less than 10 percent of all doctors had a D.O. However, osteopaths and medical doctors receive similar salaries across all specialties, notes Medical School Headquarters.