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What is the definition of osteopathy?

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Osteopathy, also known as osteopathic medicine, is a system of medical care designed to encourage the body's self-healing ability. Osteopathic medicine began in Kirksville, Missouri around the late 1800s. Osteopathic physicians are known as doctors of osteopathy, or DO, explains the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine.

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Osteopathic manipulation is an additional component to osteopathic medicine. It helps to relieve pain while supporting wellness, according to the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine. Used to diagnose and treat illnesses, it is a touch-based method involving manipulation of the muscles and joints. For some conditions, osteopathic manipulation is considered a viable substitute for surgery and drugs. Although most commonly used to treat muscle pain, osteopathic manipulation can be used to treat a variety of medical conditions including menstrual pain and asthma, notes the American Osteopathic Association.

Osteopathic medical schools tend to focus more on primary care. As of 2015, about 20 percent of American medical students are studying to be osteopathic physicians, reports the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine. Almost 5,000 new DOs start practicing each year. DOs can work in any specialty, including obstetrics, and can perform surgery. Many DOs work as primary care physicians in rural and other underserved areas. Osteopathic medicine also emphasizes disease prevention and wellness education.

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