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. Dr. Jennifer Solomon, Physiatrist, answers your questions and explains physiatry.

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.

Dr. Jennifer L. Solomon is a board-certified physiatrist in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Her practice is devoted to using non-operative and minimally invasive treatments of spine and sports injuries. Dr. Solomon serves as a team physician for the United States Tennis Association and has worked at such sporting events as the ING New York City Marathon, other races, and tennis and volleyball tournaments.

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.


  1. Thanks for the information above. It was very helpful. One quick question. What is the difference between a physiatrist and a pain management doctor? Also, I a in NJ, do you have any recommendations for a great physiatrist ? Thanks


    1. Hi Frank, thank you for reaching out. The difference between Physiatry and a Pain Management Doctor is that Physiatrists specialize in non-surgical physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R) for patients who have been disabled as a result of a disease, condition, disorder, or injury. Pain Management Doctors are specially trained to treat pain. Whether your pain stems from nagging back pain, an acute sports injury, a recent operation, osteoarthritis or complex regional pain syndrome, they are trained to understand and eliminate it. HSS now has a location in Paramus, New Jersey. If you would like to schedule an appointment, please contact our Physician Referral Service at 877-606-1555 for further assistance.

If you’d like to consider HSS for treatment, please contact our Patient Referral Service at 888-720-1982. For general questions and comments, reach us on Facebook or Twitter.