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What Is a Physiatrist?

A physiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in physical medicine, rehabilitation, and pain medicine. These spine specialists focus on the body's musculoskeletal system, which includes bones, joints, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and nerves. Physiatrists treat patients of all ages with diverse problems ranging from simple low back sprains to complex disorders, such as spinal cord injury. Their comprehensive approach includes treating the entire patient, not just symptoms.

Physiatry is an aggressive, non-surgical approach to treating musculoskeletal disease and injury, including different types of pain. Similar to other types of spine specialists, physiatrists take the patient's medical history, perform a physical and neurological examination, order X-rays or other imaging studies, prescribe medications, and perform spinal injections.

Physical medicine and rehabilitation often includes physical therapy. Sometimes other physical medicine professionals are involved in the patient's care such as occupational therapists or athletic trainers. Physiatrists coordinate patient care with other doctors and specialists, such as orthopaedic surgeons and neurosurgeons.

Physiatrists treat patients in different settings such as hospitals, outpatient clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, and private practice.

Updated on: 03/05/14
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Physiatrist Education and Training

Physiatrists are doctors who, in addition to medical school, complete 4 additional years of postdoctoral residency training.
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