What does a Physiatrist do?

A Physiatrist is a physician specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation. Physiatry was developed in the 1930's and was approved as a specialty of medicine in 1947. In the hospital setting, a physiatrist may act as a consultant or lead an interdisciplinary team on a rehabilitation ward to help someone with a disabling problem such as a stroke or multiple sclerosis (MS). In the outpatient setting, the physiatrist addresses such problems as back pain, fibromyalgia, rotator cuff tear, traumatic brain injury, carpal tunnel syndrome, whiplash, chronic pain, amputations, and multiple injury types related to sports injury.

In developing a treatment plan, the physiatrist might order laboratory work, imaging studies, or perform an electro- myography and nerve conduction studies. The treatment plan might include physical therapy, therapeutic exercise, specialized training, massage, acupuncture, counseling, injections, or medication.

Many physiatrists enjoy a broad practice, but others sub-specialize in such areas as pain management, sports medicine, neuromuscular medicine, non-hospice palliative medicine, or spinal cord injury. Some physiatrists limit their practice to only physical medicine procedures, most also practice rehabilitation. The physiatrists at RMA practice both physical medicine and rehabilitation.

Physiatrists are involved in the management of a broad- spectrum of medical problems with the underlying goals of restoring function, improving quality of life, and preventing future injury. When the full restoration to the pre-injury level of function is not possible, they work to optimize quality of life.