Osteopathic Medicine and Osteopathy

Andrew Taylor Still, MD, DO, developed osteopathic medicine in the United States in the mid- to late-1800s. Initially, osteopathic medicine was essentially osteopathic manual therapy, which is also called osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) or osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM). This care modality involves manually manipulating musculoskeletal structures of the body to resolve myriad health problems. In addition, this type of healthcare includes an emphasis on patient-centered care. Together, the osteopathic philosophy and OMT define the profession.

In the last 100+ years, different legal and regulatory structures around the world have split the profession into two professional streams:

 1. Osteopathic physicians (practicing osteopathic medicine) are doctors with full, unlimited medical practice rights, who can specialize in any branch of medical care. Osteopathic physicians train at accredited medical schools and post-graduate training programs, primarily in the United States and Germany. This training enables them to achieve nationally recognized academic and professional standards set by various countries to establish diagnosis and provide treatment as a medical doctor. Their key difference from allopathic medical doctors (MDs) is that they have completed education at a medical school that integrates principles of osteopathic philosophy and training in OMT into their comprehensive medical education.

2. Osteopaths (practicing osteopathy) are primary contact health providers who have achieved the nationally recognized academic and professional standards within his or her country to practice manual osteopathy. Osteopaths do not attend medical school, and do not practice medicine (including prescribing pharmaceuticals and performing surgery

Individual countries establish the national academic and professional standards for osteopathic physicians and osteopaths within their borders.

All osteopaths and osteopathic physicians incorporate current medical and scientific knowledge in applying osteopathic principles to patient care. Scientific review and evidence-informed outcomes have a high priority in patient treatment and case management.

Osteopathic care also incorporates a broad range of approaches to the maintenance of health and the management of disease. It embraces the concept of the unity of the individual’s structure (anatomy) and function (physiology); recognizes that each patient’s clinical signs and symptoms are the consequences of the interaction of multiple physical and non-physical factors; and emphasizes the importance of the patient-practitioner relationship in the therapeutic process. Osteopathy and osteopathic medicine are person-centered approaches (rather than disease-centered) to healthcare.

Osteo dates


Surveys of the Global Osteopathic Profession

In 2013, and again in 2020, the OIA carried out surveys to determine the status of the global profession. Organizations and individuals self-reported facts about osteopathic practice in their respective countries. This survey, which is part of the OIA’s collaborative work program with the WHO, and repeated in 2025 and periodically thereafter to track the growth of osteopathy and osteopathic medicine around the world.

Click here for the global reports.

Osteopathic Education

The global osteopathic profession has grown and developed in two distinct practice models with a shared philosophy of healthcare: osteopathy and osteopathic medicine.  Learn more about education for osteopaths and osteopathic physicians here.