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What is a Physiatrist?

What is a Physiatrist?

A physiatrist is a medical or osteopathic physician specialist who focuses on medical conditions that can interfere with function, specializing in the field of physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R). Their focus is on diagnosing, treating, preventing and mitigating the effects of illnesses that can cause disability. Their goal is to restore a patient’s function and their reintegration into all aspects of life, including the medical, social, emotional, occupational and vocational aspects. Their mission is to promote a person’s quality of life and improve functional outcomes for individuals limited by disease, trauma, congenital disorders or pain.

What Do Physiatrists Treat?

This specialty cares for patients of all ages with acute and chronic conditions. Common conditions that are treated include: sport injuries, work injuries, personal injuries, pain, and musculoskeletal problems like back and neck pain, tendinitis, pinched nerves, osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia. They also treat people who have experienced catastrophic events resulting in paraplegia, quadriplegia, traumatic brain injury, strokes, orthopedic injuries, amputations, cardiopulmonary debility, and neurologic disorders such as multiple sclerosis, polio, or ALS. They also perform diagnostic studies (electrodiagnosis) to determine conditions that result in body, head and extremity weakness, pain and numbness. They diagnose and treat conditions resulting in pain and functional impairment, using a multidisciplinary team approach. Although this list is not complete, one can see that physiatrists offer comprehensive care for people with diverse medical conditions.

What Is The Training For a Physiatrist?

Typically the physiatrist will work in both inpatient and/or outpatient setting, in a holistic, comprehensive, team-oriented approach. To become a physiatrist a physician must complete medical or osteopathic school (4 years) and then attend an internship (1 year) of internal medicine, surgery or equivalent. Then they complete the PM&R residency (3 years). Some will further sub-specialize in spinal cord injury medicine, sports medicine, pain medicine, electro-diagnostic medicine, neuromuscular medicine, traumatic brain injury and pediatrics adding 1 to 3 more years to their training. After completing their residency training the qualified candidates take a written exam (part I), and after the first year of practice an oral exam (part 2). If successful then they continue their learning and recertify every ten years..​

What Is PM&R?

PM&R stands for Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, also known as physiatry. It is a branch of medicine where physicians strive to diagnose, evaluate, and manage persons of all ages with physical and/or cognitive impairment and disability, of mild to severe nature. The physiatrist’s goal is restoring function to people with injuries to muscles, bone, tissues and nervous system. In 1936 the first Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation residency training was inaugurated at the Mayo Clinic. The American Academy of PM&R originated in 1938, and the American Board of PM&R (ABPM&R) was established in 1947 and approved by the Advisory Board of Medical Specialties as one of twenty-four official medical specialties.

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