The Philosophy of Osteopathic Medicine

DOs are trained to look at the whole person from their first days of medical school, which means they see each person as more than just a collection of organ systems and body parts that may become injured or diseased. When the human being is viewed in light of osteopathic principles the perception of the health-disease continuum changes. Osteopathic principles allow the physician to consider all aspects of the patient, not just the symptoms. The osteopathic physician sees the integrated nature of the various organ systems and body’s capabilities for self-regulation and self-healing. These principles acknowledge the importance of the musculoskeletal system and its role in health and disease. This holistic approach to patient care means that osteopathic medical students learn how to integrate the patient into the health care process as a partner. They are trained to communicate with people from diverse backgrounds, and they get the opportunity to practice these skills in their classrooms and learning laboratories, frequently with standardized and simulated patients.

There are more than 121,000 practicing DOs in the US, practicing their distinct philosophy in every medical specialty.

Osteopathic Principles

  1. The body is a unit; the person is a unit of body, mind, and spirit.

  2. The body is capable of self-regulation, self-healing, and health maintenance.

  3. Structure and function are reciprocally interrelated.

  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 body is a unit; the person is a unit of body, mind, and spirit.
The body is completely united; the person is a fully integrated being of body, mind and spirit. No single part of the body functions independently. Each separate part is interconnected with all others and serves to benefit the collective whole of the person. Alterations in any part of the system, including an individual’s mental and spiritual health, affect the function of the body as a whole and all other parts therein.

The body is capable of self-regulation, self-healing, and health maintenance.
Health is the natural state of the body, and the body possesses complex, homeostatic, self-regulatory mechanisms that it uses to heal itself from injury. In times of disease, when a part of the body is functioning sub-optimally, other parts of the body come out of their natural state of health in order to compensate for the dysfunction. During this compensatory process, however, new dysfunctions may arise. Osteopathic physicians must work to adjust the body so as to realign its parts back to normal. Osteopathic manipulative medicine aims to restore the body’s self-healing capacity by decreasing allostatic load, or the physiologic effects of chronic bodily stresses,and enhancing the immune system.

Structure and function are reciprocally interrelated.
The structure of a body part governs its function, and thus abnormal structure manifests as dysfunction. Function also governs structure. In addition, if the body’s overall structure is sub-optimal, its functioning and capacity for self-healing will be inhibited as well.

Rational treatment is based upon an understanding of the basic principles of body unity, self-regulation, and the interrelationship of structure and function
These basic osteopathic tenets permeate all aspects of health maintenance and disease prevention and treatment. The osteopathic physician examines, diagnoses, and treats patients according to these principles.

Osteopathic Oath


I do hereby affirm my loyalty to the profession I am about to enter. I will be mindful always of my great responsibility to preserve the health and the life of my patients, to retain their confidence and respect both as a physician and a friend who will guard their secrets with scrupulous honor and fidelity, to perform faithfully my professional duties, to employ only those recognized methods of treatment consistent with good judgment and with my skill and ability, keeping in mind always nature’s laws and the body’s inherent capacity for recovery.

I will be ever vigilant in aiding in the general welfare of the community, sustaining its laws and institutions, not engaging in those practices which will in any way bring shame or discredit upon myself or my profession. I will give no drugs for deadly purposes to any person, though it be asked of me.

I will endeavor to work in accord with my colleagues in a spirit of progressive cooperation and never by word or by act cast imputations upon them or their rightful practices.

I will look with respect and esteem upon all those who have taught me my art. To my college I will be loyal and strive always for its best interests and for the interests of the students who will come after me. I will be ever alert to further the application of basic biologic truths to the healing arts and to develop the principles of osteopathy which were first enunciated by Andrew Taylor Still.

Osteopathic Pledge of Commitment


As members of the Osteopathic medical profession, and in an effort to instill loyalty and strengthen the profession, we recall the tenets on which this profession is founded — the dynamic interaction of mind, body and spirit; the body’s ability to heal itself; the primary role of the musculoskeletal system; and preventative medicine as the key to maintain health.  We recognize the work our predecessors have accomplished in building the profession, and we commit ourselves to continuing that work.

I pledge to:

  • Provide compassionate, quality care to my patients;
  • Partner with them to promote health;
  • Display integrity and professionalism throughout my career;
  • Advance the philosophy, practice and science of Osteopathic Medicine;
  • Continue life-long learning;
  • Support my profession with loyalty and action, word and deed; and
  • Live each day as an example of what osteopathic physicians should be.