DIFFERENT TYPES of MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS
Many people aren’t aware that there are different approaches to medicine, and that you have the ability to choose from a variety of board-licensed professionals that match your needs and personal preferences.
Here’s a quick guide to the different types of medical professionals:
Allopathic Doctor: Also known as Western Medicine or Mainstream Medicine, allopathic doctors are the most common medical professionals in North America.
They hold medical degrees and tend to address symptoms and diseases with pharmaceutical drugs. They are not typically trained in the use of supplements, natural medicine, or other “alternative” medical methods. But some of them choose to go beyond their training and learned more and more. They could be trained in Functional Medicine (IFMCP), Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurvedic Medicine, Orthomolecular Medicine, etc.
An allopathic doctor holds an MD, and treatment is usually covered by insurance.
Osteopathic Doctor: Osteopaths are trained in the same way as allopathic doctors, attend the same number of university classes, and share the same residency and patient care requirements as those who hold an MD.
However, the osteopath’s training is focused on addressing the whole patient rather than symptoms. They are able to prescribe traditional pharmaceutical medications, but they are also open to alternatives like supplements, chiropractic treatments, and other methods that are considered “alternative” by allopathic doctors. They are more prone to go beyond their training and learn more and more. They could be trained in Functional Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurvedic Medicine, Orthomolecular Medicine, etc.
An osteopath, or DO, acts as a partner in the patient’s health. They take into account the patient’s preferences when discussing treatment options and lifestyle choices. Treatment is covered by insurance.
Naturopathic Doctors: A naturopathic doctor, or ND, focuses more on the whole person and the root cause of illness. A licensed naturopath attends the same amount of school as an MD or DO, but is not required to do a residency and has fewer required patient care hours unless they have a lot of experience of course.
Naturopaths focus on the body’s natural ability to heal itself, look at root causes like the functional medicine approach and work with the patient using natural means. A naturopath might use herbs, acupuncture, supplements, diet, and exercise to treat things like chronic pain or autoimmune disease. They are open-minded in other medicine approaches like mentioned above and acts as a partner in the patient's health.
It’s important to know that there’s a big difference between a licensed naturopathic doctor and a Traditional Naturopath. A licensed ND is able to diagnose and prescribe and has passed board certification exams to become a general practice doctor.
A traditional naturopath is not required to be licensed or certified. Depending on where you live and what you’re looking for, you might want to choose one or the other… but it’s important to know the difference.
Licensed NDs are sometimes covered by insurance, traditional naturopaths are rarely covered.
Chiropractic Doctors: A chiropractor (DCM) attends four years of graduate school, like other doctors. They don’t have a required residency, but they do have to see a set number of patients before being licensed.
Chiropractors focus on spinal alignment, posture, and disorders of bones, joints, and ligaments. They are patient-focused, and are especially known for treating back and neck pain. They may also offer advice on nutrition, lifestyle, and exercise. They have a prevention approach as well. They are open-minded in other medicine approaches like mentioned above and acts as a partner in the patient's health.
A chiropractor is not a medical doctor, but they do hold a doctorate degree. They must also pass strict board licensing exams and meet continuing education requirements to continue to hold a license.
Some insurance companies cover chiropractic care.
For insurance, Health Spending Account (HSA) could be used for reimboursement of different extensive testings for example. Keep in mind to refer to the maximum allowed for each practitioners category as well. Both counts in your health investment.
Depending on your needs and personal preference, you might use different doctors at different times. The main thing is, you do have options! Check their credentials and do a 15- minute free call (that they usually have) to see if you “click” with the doctor.
To know more and to find one:
Institute for Functional Medicine ( includes NDs, DCs, MDs, DOs, IFMCPs and more around the world):
Find a Practitioner at :
https://www.ifm.org/find-a-practitioner/ ( includes NDs, DCs, MDs, DOs, IFMCP and more)
https://www.cmaac.ca/public/find-a-practitioner ( Chinese Medicine)
https://www.atcma-us.org/en/home( Chinese Medicine TCM)
https://www.atcm.co.uk/find-a-practitioner (Chinese Medicine TCM in UK)
www.aaaomonline.org (Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine)
www.nccaom.org (Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine)
https://www.nccaom.org/find-a-practitioner-directory/ (Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine)
https://www.ayurvedanama.org/ (Ayurvedic Medical Association)
https://www.ayurvedaassociation.ca/ (Ayurvedic Canada)
https://isom.ca/ (Orthomolecular Medicine)
http://www.orthomolecular.org/ (Orthomolecular Medicine)
http://orthomolecular.org/resources/pract.shtml (Orthomolecular Medicine links)
Don't go crazy if you start. Give yourself a chance. Learning is a process.
Statements made on this website have not been evaluated by the U.S. FDA or any authorities. The information is presented for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or prescribe for any medical or psychological condition, nor to prevent treat, mitigate or cure such conditions. The information contained herein is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a doctor or qualified healthcare professional. Therefore, this information is not intended as medical advice, but rather a sharing of knowledge and information based on research and experience. HYGIA.CA encourages you to make your own health care decisions based on your judgment and research in partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.