What is Osteopathic Medicine?

The Beginning of Osteopathic Medicine

In the field of medicine, OPP stands for Osteopathic Principles and Practice whereas OMM stands for Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine. Both abbreviations may be used interchangeably. We can thank Dr. Andres Taylor Still, a physician who devoted most of his medical practice to finding a better way to treat diseases, for establishing the significance of this type of medicine and serving as the founder of osteopathic medicine. He continued to study the physiology of the human body’s ability to function and to heal itself naturally. His overall goal was to promote the idea of preventative medicine and to teach other physicians to treat the patient as a whole, rather than just treating the disease. His dedication to this methodology in the 19th and 20th centuries has created a wide variety of treatments that physicians continue to use today to treat patients in an efficient and harmless way.

The 4 Tenets of Osteopathic Medicine

There are four tenets that Osteopathic Physicians follow to practice efficiently and safely.

1. The body is a unit; body, mind, and spirit are united to make the whole person. This is to say that no single part of the body functions independently. If there is any alteration to these three systems, then each system will be affected. Therefore, it is vital that we include each system in our practice.

2. The body is capable of self-regulation, self-healing, and health maintenance. The body can heal itself from injury naturally, meaning that the body possesses complex mechanisms to treat itself. The goal of Osteopathic physicians is to restore the body back to its normal state so that the body can continue to restore itself naturally. This is where OPP/OMM aims to restore the body’s self-healing capacity by decreasing excessive work.

3. Structure and function are reciprocally interrelated. The structure of a body determines its function. Therefore, an abnormal structure will affect the function of the body. This can cause a limited functioning capacity.

4. Rational treatment is based upon an understanding of the basic principles of body unity, self-regulation, and the interrelationship of structure and function. The practice of Osteopathic medicine must be made using rational treatments with the understanding of the basic tenets listed.

Osteopathic Manipulation 

Osteopathic Manipulation Medicine (OMM) is a hands-on method for treating patients. Osteopathic physicians can treat a variety of health conditions using this treatment. This treatment requires DO physicians to apply gentle pressure to manipulate muscles, soft tissues, and joints. The goal of this treatment is for the body to heal itself by aligning the bones and muscles so that they can be balanced properly. OMM can treat many conditions such as breathing issues, bowel issues, chronic pain, musculoskeletal problems, pregnancy complications, sports injuries, etc. This method of treatment is not limited to the listed conditions.


Osteopathic manipulation is used to actively treat patients. It can also be used to practice preventative medicine, which reduces the chances of patients losing their independence in the long run. These practices explain the true benefits of becoming an Osteopathic Physician. While DO medical students obtain the same medical education as an MD medical student, it is important to understand that Osteopathic manipulation is an additional curriculum of training for Osteopathic physicians. This greatly benefits the Osteopathic physician and the patient because additional steps can be made to practice efficient treatment methods. Studies have shown that using this method of practice may help reduce the prescription of unnecessary medications and shorten patient hospital length of stay. This is one of the many reasons as to why Osteopathic medicine is a must to treat patients all over the world. 

This content has been compiled and summarized by Pre-SOMA Committee Osteopathic Principles and Practices Coordinator, Adam Khan. 

For more information, please visit https://osteopathic.org/