Letters to the Editor

Osteopath Is Incorrect Term for Osteopathic Physicians


Am Fam Physician. 2013 Aug 15;88(4):222.

Original Article: Is Spinal Manipulation an Effective Treatment for Low Back Pain? Yes: Evidence Shows Benefit in Most Patients

Issue Date: April 15, 2012

See additional reader comments at: https://www.aafp.org/afp/2012/0415/p756.html

TO THE EDITOR: This editorial incorrectly used the term osteopath to refer to osteopathic physicians. The American Osteopathic Association states that the correct term for these physicians is doctor of osteopathic medicine. Physicians with doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO) degrees are fully credentialed, U.S.-trained physicians who undergo equivalent training as those with doctor of medicine (MD) degrees, but also learn a form of manual therapy known as osteopathic manipulative treatment.1 Osteopaths practice osteopathy, a separate profession from osteopathic medicine. They are not trained in the United States, and are not physicians.

E-mail: Doctork88@aol.com

Author disclosure: No relevant financial affiliations.

The opinions and assertions contained herein are the private views of the authors and are not to be construed as official or as reflecting the views of the U.S. Air Force Medical Department or the U.S. Air Force at large.


1. American Osteopathic Association. Terminology for reporting on osteopathic medicine. http://www.osteopathic.org/inside-aoa/news-and-publications/media-center/Pages/osteopathic-style-guide.aspx. Accessed May 21, 2013.

IN REPLY: Mr. Kaufman is correct that it is current American Osteopathic Association policy to describe U.S.-trained doctors of osteopathic medicine as osteopathic physicians, because they are fully licensed and trained in manual medicine.1

That being said, the term osteopath has been the proper term for U.S.-trained osteopathic physicians for more than a century.2 Until 2010, most colleges of osteopathic medicine in the United States awarded diplomas in osteopathy and called their graduates osteopaths upon graduation (myself included).2,3 A 2011 American Osteopathic Association resolution further states that the terms osteopath, osteopathy, and osteopathic should be advocated and protected for graduates who have these descriptors on their diplomas (as opposed to osteopathic physician and osteopathic medicine), and will always have historic and sentimental significance.3

E-mail: james.arnold.3@us.af.mil

Author disclosure: No relevant financial affiliations.


1. American Osteopathic Association. Policy compendium 2012. H229-A/05. Osteopath and osteopathy - use of the term. http://www.osteopathic.org/inside-aoa/about/leadership/Documents/policy-compendium.pdf. Accessed June 10, 2013.

2. Peterson BE. Major events in osteopathic history. In: Chila AG, ed. Foundations of Osteopathic Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2011.

3. American Osteopathic Association. Policy compendium 2012. H291-A/06 - osteopathic term protection. http://www.osteopathic.org/inside-aoa/about/leadership/Documents/policy-compendium.pdf. Accessed June 10, 2013.

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This series is coordinated by Kenny Lin, MD, MPH, Associate Deputy Editor for AFP Online.



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