Sometimes seeing the doctor can feel like alphabet soup. You’ve got your MDs, your DOs, your PAs, your RNs, your PA-Cs – the list goes on! So what do all of these acronyms mean? Today we’ll briefly uncover the two acroyms that give you the title of “doctor” and explore what they mean – DO & MD.

MD’s & DO’s

First things first. Both DO’s as well as MD’s are doctors.

The DO designation has historically been more prominant in the south, whereas MDs tended to be located in larger norther cities. However today there is much less to this distinction and both monikers can be found all over the counrty. Both MDs and DOs have gone through full undergraduate training as well as 4 years of medical school. Depending on the specialty, doctors will then undertake 3-7 years of residency before being fully established.

You will find both in various specialities from primary care to skilled surgeons. 

In qualifications and abilities, you will generally not find much difference.

What’s the Difference?

Although both DO and MD doctors are both licensed physicians who have completed extensive medical education and training, there remain some key differences. MDs, or medical doctors, typically focus on treating specific conditions with medication, while DOs, or doctors of osteopathic medicine, tend to focus on whole-body healing, including both medicine as well as non-medical procedures.

DOs practice an osteopathic approach to care, which emphasizes the treatment of illnesses through the manipulation and massage of the bones, joints, and muscles before engaging in medical intervention (when appropriate). In contrast, MDs practice an allopathic approach to care. This approach treats health concerns with more immediate conventional medical solutions such as surgery, medication, and therapies.

Although both MDs and DOs practice modern medicine by routinely prescribing medication and/or performing surgeries, it’s their methodology of care that distinguishes them.

Which is Right for Me?

Neither DOs nor MDs are any better than the other. The northeast is extremely fortunate to have some of the best and brightest minds, regardless of philosophy. That being said, the few key differences lead to some interesting choices.

Osteopathic physicians (DOs) can specialize in many different areas including family medicine, surgery and pediatrics just like their counterparts with an MD degree do–but they also have additional training specific to osteopathic manipulation therapy (OMT). This specialized treatment focuses on treating musculoskeletal pain through manual manipulation techniques such as stretching or massage rather than medications or surgery which has been shown effective at reducing pain without the side effects associated with other methods like opioids.

If you are someone who enjoys a more holistic approach to medicine, a DO may be right for you. 

A Medical Doctor (MD) on the other hand focuses on medical treatments to various ailments initially and directly. If you have aches and pains that you do not want treated in a holistic method, an MD may be right for you.


Newburport Family Practice has historically had both DO and MD doctors. Both philosophies are solid, medically-sound, and evidence based. We encourage you to select a provider not by the letters after their name but by the relationship you are able to form with them and the mindset of care that you each agree upon.