Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation

What is a physiatrist?

A physiatrist is a physician that specializes in the field of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Physiatrists are experts on how nerves, muscles, bones, joints, and the brain work together. They are doctors of function and are trained to help patients return to healthy and active lifestyles as quickly as possible, whether it be returning to work, sports, or just to normal daily activity. Physiatry is a person-centered specialty. Physiatrists look at the whole person in the context of their daily lives, not just one symptom or condition. Physiatrists specialize in non-surgical care, and will work with you, your family, and the rest of your healthcare team to make an accurate diagnosis and come up with a customized treatment plan for rehabilitation.

What sorts of conditions does a physiatrist treat?

Physiatrists are specialists in the nonoperative treatment of a wide array of disorders affecting the musculoskeletal system. They are highly skilled in sports medicine, spine medicine, and general orthopaedic conditions. These can include:

  • Shoulder, hip, knee, and other joint injuries
  • Sciatica and pinched nerves in the neck
  • Spinal stenosis and spondylolisthesis
  • Disc herniation and other disc disorders
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis and bursitis
  • Other nerve entrapment syndromes
  • Myofascial and neuropathic pain syndromes

What sort of training does a doctor have to complete to become a physiatrist?

Typically a physiatrist has completed four years of medical school, a one year internship in either internal medicine or surgery, and a three year residency in Rehabilitation Medicine. At that point, they may choose to subspecialize by completing additional training in the form of a fellowship such as sports or pain medicine.

What can I expect at my clinic visit?

At your initial clinic visit, your physiatrist will take an oral history and perform a comprehensive physical examination. If necessary, he may order additional diagnostic tests such as X-rays, CTs, MRIs, or bone scans. Your physiatrist is also an expert in electrodiagnosis, and if necessary, may perform a specialized nerve test called electromyography, or EMG, in order to help pinpoint the source of your pain.

Because every patient is unique, our treatment plans are always individually tailored. Your plan may include referral to physical or occupational therapy, bracing, orthotics, or medication. Sometimes, the above treatments are not enough, and your physiatrist may recommend state-of-the-art spine or peripheral joint injections. These are usually performed under fluoroscopy, which enables your physiatrist to obtain "live" X-ray images during a procedure. If a surgical referral becomes necessary, your physiatrist will refer you to one of our surgeons for further care.

Physiatrists believe that patients do their best when they are properly educated regarding their diagnosis so they often have an active role in the decision-making and treatment process. Your physiatrist will do this through careful explanation of your medical problem and treatment plan, and will work closely with orthopaedic surgeons to provide integrated care that maximizes your return to function.

Rehabilitation Exercise & Conditioning Handouts...