What is a Physiatrist?

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doc-with-a-patientA physiatrist (fizz ee at' trist) is a physician specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation. Physiatrists treat a wide range of problems from sore shoulders to spinal cord injuries. They see patients in all age groups and treat problems relating to all the major systems of the body. These specialists focus on optimal healing and restoring the body's functional ability to improve the quality of their patients' daily lives.


Physiatrists treat acute and chronic pain and musculoskeletal disorders. They may evaluate a person who lifts a heavy object at work and experiences back pain, consult with a basketball player who sprains an ankle and needs rehabilitation to play again, or advise a knitter who has carpal tunnel syndrome regarding non-surgical options for pain relief.


Physiatrists' patients include people with arthritis, fibromyalgia, tendonitis, neck and back pain, work and sports related injuries. Patients with chronic pain are offered innovative pain management techniques which are less invasive, safer, and can be more cost-effective than traditional surgical treatments.


Common work injuries include cumulative trauma from repetitive motions, and disorders of the spine, particularly as a result of use of heavy machinery on the job.


Physiatrists often treat patients who have suffered traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries. Each day, 250,000 people are living with the effects of spinal cord injuries. Typically, the physiatrist is brought in within 24–48 hours after the injury to coordinate any non-surgical treatment and continues as the patient's primary attending physician.


Many physiatrists serve as consultants to professional and college sports teams, assisting injured athletes in the rehabilitation process.


Resource: www.aapmr.org


What Kind of Training Is Required?

To become a Physiatrist, individuals must successfully complete four years of graduate medical education followed by four additional years of postdoctoral residency training. Residency training includes one year spent developing fundamental clinical skills and three additional years training in the full scope of the specialty. To become board certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation, physiatrists are required to take both a written and oral examination administered by the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.


Why Choose A Physiatrist?

Because physiatrists offer aggressive, holistic, and nonsurgical approaches to treating pain and injury, these physicians are the ideal choice for patients with a wide variety of diseases and conditions. Here is a partial listing of some of the conditions that physiatrists have extensive training in diagnosing and treating:


  • Low back pain (Sciatica)
  • Neck pain
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Myofascial Pain/Chronic Pain
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Brain injuries
  • Arthritis
  • Cancer
  • Burns
  • Stroke/neurological disorders
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Sports injuries
  • Osteoporosis
  • Musculoskeletal disorders
  • Work injuries
  • Spinal Stenosis