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Ask the Expert: When to See a Physiatrist

physiatrist analyzing foot injury

Ever wonder what a physiatrist treats or when it is appropriate to see one? Physiatrist are often the first stop for orthopedic issues.

Q1. What is a physiatrist and when should I see one?

A physiatrist in a physician who is residency trained in physical medicine and rehabilitation. A physiatrist can diagnosis and treat sports and spine-related injuries as well as restore maximum function lost through injury, illness or disabling conditions. They can also treat pain syndromes. A physiatrist treats the whole person, not just the problem areas, provides non-surgical treatments as well as certain interventional procedures.  The job of a rehabilitation physician is to treat any disability resulting from disease or injury, from sore shoulders to spinal cord injuries. The focus is on the development of a comprehensive program for putting the pieces of a person’s life back together after injury or disease  without surgery.

Q2. How do physiatrists diagnosis pain?

Physiatrists diagnosis pain by aggressively seeking out the underlying condition. By listening to patients and providing a thorough examination, we seek out an accurate diagnosis. On occasion, specific supplemental tests are performed including x-rays, ultrasounds, MRIs and electrodiagnostic testing.

Q3. What is a physiatrist’s role in treatment?

Rehabilitation physicians accurately pinpoint the source of an ailment. They then design a treatment plan that can be carried out by the patients themselves or with the help of the rehabilitation physician’s medical team. This medical team might include other physicians and health professionals, such as neurologists, orthopedic surgeons, and physical therapists. By providing an appropriate treatment plan, rehabilitation physicians help patients stay as active as possible at any age.

Q4. Are there specific injuries that physiatrists specialize in?

Physiatrists can specialize in spine, sports medicine, stroke, spinal cord injuries, pain, cancer, pediatrics and other subspecialties.

Topics: Orthopedics
The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.