A Conversation with Dr. Conran

The Value of Hands-On Treatment: Osteopathic Medicine in a Nutshell

In the spring of 2017, Deborah Conran, DO, joined the staff of the Integrative Health Program at Atlantic General Hospital. This innovative program helps people achieve wellness through treatments that balance mind, body and spirit. Committed to a holistic approach, practitioners like Dr. Conran also aim to reduce the need for medication and surgery and to keep their patients out of the hospital. At Atlantic General, integrative health runs the gamut from acupuncture and nutritional counseling to aroma therapy, massage, osteopathic medicine—Dr. Conran’s specialty—and more. Read the following Q&A with her to learn more about this hands-on branch of medicine and to see whether it may be right for you…

What is a DO? What’s the difference between a DO and an MD?

A DO is a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine. Like MDs, we’re fully licensed physicians, and we can be found in every medical specialty. We emphasize a whole-person approach to medicine, one that looks beyond a person’s symptoms to understand how lifestyle and environmental factors affect health. Osteopathic medicine is also a rapidly growing field, with one out of every four medical students in the United States enrolled in an osteopathic medical school.

What’s “special” about this specialty?

The osteopathic philosophy of medicine is based on the view that all systems of the body are interrelated. We DOs have an extra bonus way of taking care of our patients: In addition to everything else we do as physicians, we’re trained to use a special form of touch, called osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT).

Please say a little more about OMT.

OMT allows us to deal with all the body’s tissues, including bony joints, fluids, nerves, and soft tissues. I use it to treat patients at every stage of life, from newborn to elderly, and to help and heal a variety of symptoms and conditions. Regrettably, many osteopathic doctors no longer offer OMT—mainly, because of time constraints. Atlantic General’s Integrative Health Program has given me the time and space to provide this hands-on approach to patients with a wide range of acute and chronic conditions.

Chiropractors also use manipulative treatment. How does OMT differ from chiropractic?

Like DOs, chiropractors work holistically, using their hands to diagnose and treat patients. They perform adjustments to correct poor alignment, improve function, and balance health. However, chiropractors don’t undergo the same medical training as DOs or MDs. They can’t prescribe medication or perform surgical procedures. What they can do is provide adjustments and give expert advice on nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle. While there’s some overlap between a chiropractic adjustment and OMT, DOs are trained to perform very particular types of manipulation.

What are the principal benefits of OMT?

DOs use OMT to alleviate pain, promote healing, and increase mobility. We also use it to relieve symptoms of asthma, migraines, cardiac problems, and ear infections, among many other conditions. The simple placing of hands on a patient’s body can also help ease anxiety and other forms of mental distress. In many cases, OMT is used to complement drugs or surgery—and sometimes even replace them altogether.

Who should seek osteopathic care? Are there patients who shouldn’t seek it?

Osteopathic medicine is not the be-all and end-all for every patient in every situation, and neither is OMT. We tend to work as vital members of a patient’s healthcare team. For example, we can help patients with diabetes by treating their neuropathy—nerve damage affecting the feet and legs—but we can’t maintain their blood sugar levels. For that, they need to work with an endocrinologist or an internist specializing in diabetes.

How can patients find out more about osteopathic medicine and decide whether it’s right for them?

In addition to reading the information found on Atlantic General's website, I’d suggest visiting the patient information website of the American Osteopathic Association.

For more information about OMT or how to schedule an appointment with Dr. Conran, call 410-641-3340.