What is a Physiatrist?
Physiatrists, or rehabilitation physicians, are nerve, muscle, and bone experts who treat injuries or illnesses that affect how you move
Rehabilitation physicians are medical doctors who have completed training in the medical specialty of physical medicine and rehab (PM&R). Specifically, rehabilitation physicians:
- Diagnose and treat pain
- Restore maximum function lost through injury, illness or disabling conditions
- Treat the whole person, not just the problem area
- Lead a team of medical professionals
- Provide non-surgical treatments
- Explain your medical problems and treatment/prevention plan
The job of a rehabilitation physician is to treat any disability resulting from disease or injury, from sore shoulders to spinal cord injuries. The focus is on the development of a comprehensive program for putting the pieces of a person’s life back together after injury or disease – without surgery.
Rehabilitation physicians take the time needed to accurately pinpoint the source of an ailment. They then design a treatment plan that can be carried out by the patients themselves or with the help of the rehabilitation physician’s medical team. This medical team might include other physicians and health professionals, such as neurologists, orthopedic surgeons, and physical therapists. By providing an appropriate treatment plan, rehabilitation physicians help patients stay as active as possible at any age. Their broad medical expertise allows them to treat disabling conditions throughout a person’s lifetime.
*Taken from the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.
What is physical medicine and rehabilitation?
Physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R), also called physiatry, is the branch of medicine emphasizing the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of disorders – particularly related to the nerves, muscles, and bones – that may produce temporary or permanent impairment. PM&R is one of 24 medical specialties certified by the American Board of Medical Specialties. PM&R provides integrated care in the treatment of conditions related to the brain, muscles, and bones, spanning from traumatic brain injury to lower back pain.
What is a rehabilitation physician?
Rehabilitation physicians are nerve, muscle, and bone experts who treat injuries or illnesses that affect how you move. Rehabilitation physicians have completed training in the medical specialty physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R). They are sometimes referred to as PM&R physicians or physiatrists.
Rehabilitation physicians treat a wide range of problems from sore shoulders to spinal cord injuries. Their goal is to decrease pain and enhance performance without surgery.
How do rehabilitation physicians diagnose?
Rehabilitation physicians take the time needed to accurately pinpoint the source of an ailment. Their specific diagnostic tools are the same as those used by other physicians (medical histories, physical examinations, and imaging studies), with the addition of special techniques in electrodiagnostic medicine like electromyography (EMG), nerve conduction studies, and somatosensory evoked potentials. These techniques help the rehabilitation physician to diagnose conditions that cause pain, weakness, and numbness.
What is the rehabilitation physician’s role in treatment?
Once they have a diagnosis, rehabilitation physicians design a treatment plan that can be carried out by the patients themselves or with the help of the rehabilitation physician’s medical team. This interdisciplinary medical team may include medical professionals such as neurologists, psychiatrists, orthopedic surgeons, and urologists, and non-physician health professionals such as physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech pathologists, vocational counselors, psychologists and social workers. The team is different for each patient, and the team’s composition changes during treatment to match the patient’s shifting needs. By providing an appropriate treatment plan, rehabilitation physicians help patients stay as active as possible at any age. Their broad medical expertise allows them to treat disabling conditions throughout a person’s lifetime.
What is the scope of the rehabilitation physician’s practice?
PM&R is often called the quality of life profession because its aim is to enhance patient performance. These specialists treat any disability resulting from disease or injury involving any organ system. The focus is not on one part of the body, but instead on the development of a comprehensive program for putting the pieces of a person’s life back together – medically, socially, emotionally, and vocationally – after injury or disease. Rehabilitation physicians manage issues that span the entire spectrum, from complicated multiple trauma to injury prevention for athletes. Some rehabilitation physicians have broad-based practices that encompass many different types of patients. Others pursue special interests and focus on specific groups or problems. For example, sports medicine has grown as a special interest. Rehabilitation physicians who focus on sports medicine treat sports-related injuries, develop programs to help athletes avoid injury, and may do research in the field.
Conditions treated by Physiatry
- Musculoskeletal and spinal column disorders associated with occupational and sports injuries and age-related dysfunction
- Chronic painful conditions involving the central and peripheral nervous systems and musculoskeletal system, either traumatic, non-traumatic or acquired. Examples include: Spine, manual medicine, electrodiagnostics, neuropathy/plexopathy, chronic pain, ALS, MD, Parkinson’s, MS, neuro-degenerative, hereditary sensory-motor, peripheral nerve.
- Physiatrists are engaged in research, education, patient care or advocacy for arthritis and rheumatological conditions.
- Manage rehabilitation for the medically complex, including rehabilitation of major trauma, acquired cardiovascular, pulmonary, oncology, and pulmonary disorders, geriatrics, amputation and burns.