a doctor examining a patient

What is a Physiatrist?

Physiatry, also know as Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) emphasizes the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of people disabled by disease, disorder or injury (Association of Academic Physiatrists). It is recognized as a newer sub-specialty, that allows physicians to manage a wider variety of conditions involving the nervous and muskuloskeletal systems. The main focus of Physiatry is restoring function, independence and overall quality of a patient's life.

Physiatry is a more holistic approach in the medical community, providing more integrated, multidisciplinary care. Rather than focusing on an individual organ system or structural system, the aim is to consider the whole patient and the depth of their experience.

Conditions Physiatrists Treat

Physiatrists treat conditions of the bones, muscles, joints, brain and nervous system, which can affect other systems of the body and limit a person's ability to function. Here are some of the most common conditions treated:

  • Amputation
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Dysphagia
  • Multiple Sclerosis and Other Neurological Conditions
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Spasticity & Movement Disorders
  • Spinal Cord Injury
  • Spine Pain
  • Sports-Related Injuries
  • Stroke

Non-Surgical Approaches to Treatment

The PM&R physician is very skilled in performing musculoskeletal and neurologic examinations. Aside from the history and physical that are the foundation of any patient evaluation, physiatrists are also trained to utilize laboratory testing, x-rays, MRI scans, electromyography (EMG), nerve conduction studies (NCS) and psychological testing. Once a patient's conditioned is assessed, here are common treatment approaches:

  • Prosthetics and Orthotics
  • Electrical Stimulation
  • Active Physical Therapy
  • Manual Therapy
  • Joint & Trigger Point Injections
  • Medication
  • Heat/ Cold and Water Therapy
  • Alternative Medicine
  • Assistive Devices
(Source: https://www.physiatry.org/page/WhatIsPhysiatry)