Osteopathy is an approach to healthcare that emphasizes the role of the musculoskeletal system in health and disease. In most countries osteopathy is a form of complementary medicine, emphasizing a holistic approach and the skilled use of a range of manual and physical treatment interventions (osteopathic manipulative medicine, or OMM in the United States) in the prevention and treatment of disease.
In practice, this most commonly relates to musculoskeletal problems such as back and neck pain. Many osteopaths see their role as facilitating the body's own recuperative powers by treating musculoskeletal or somatic dysfunction.
According to the American Osteopathic Association, the difference between an osteopath and an osteopathic physician is often confused. In the United States, Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine (DOs) are fully licensed medical physicians and surgeons, practicing in all clinical specialties along with their MD colleagues.
Just like MDs, DOs practice the full scope of medicine. In the United Kingdom, courses in Osteopathy have recently become integrated into the university system.
Instead of receiving a Diploma in Osteopathy (DO), with or without a Diploma in Naturopathy (ND), graduates now become Bachelors of Osteopathy or Bachelors of Osteopathic Medicine, or Bachelors of Science in either Osteopathy or Osteopathic Medicine, according to the institution attended: but these degrees do not lead to prescribing rights and in this case Osteopathy and Osteopathic Medicine are synonymous.
There is one "cross-over" institution, the London College of Osteopathic Medicine, which teaches osteopathy only to those already qualified in medicine. Before using the title of "osteopath," graduates have to register with the UK regulatory body by statute; the General Osteopathic Council.