We know that there are different types of doctors like a heart specialist, skin specialist, gynaecologist, etc., but we cannot distinguish between them as per the terms given to them according to their degrees. Medical practitioners have various terms according to their education. Here, we are going to see the difference between MD and DO.
The term MD stands for Doctor of Medicine and DO for Doctor of Osteopathic medicine. Education and training wise, there is hardly any difference between the two. Both of them must complete 4 years of education in premed or in related science, before they could start 4 year training to become a doctor.
The training prepares them for the testing, MCAT, which they have to take to get a license. A student aspiring to become a doctor of medicine has to take USMLE examination to get. On the other hand, a DO has to clear COMLEX exam.
On the other hand, a DO considers a human body as a complex network of muscles and skeletal system. A doctor of osteopathy assumes a disease affects the whole body and tries to find its root cause. His training advises him to consider all the symptoms, directly related or unrelated, that he can find before arriving at a diagnosis.
Osteopathic Medical Treatment (OMT) is a part of a DO's training, and it is body manipulation on the same lines as done by chiropractors. If you visit your MD with a severe headache, he may ask to get some tests done and may prescribe some sort of painkillers for it.
A DO may first use his hand to physically check if there is something wrong with the muscles or bones of your neck. However, not all DO's practice OMT on all patients. Some of them don't practice it at all. They are more open to exploring alternative medicines, holistic/herbal medicine, which an MD wouldn't normally go for, for the recovery of patients.
Don't get the wrong impression that the MD's aren't useful anymore or DO's cannot perform surgeries and prescribe medicine. There are many MD's who, instead of treating a diseased part of the patients body, tries to treat him of the disease. Their approach is to improve health by offering proper patient care, using what they are trained with and believe in.
Whatever is the difference, one shouldn't forget that both of them are highly competent professionals, both of them have achieved their license after hard work and rigorous testing. So who should one visit? It also depends on your physical condition, how much time you have in hand, as well as the progression of the disease.