Physiatrists – What They Do, Treat, and More

Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation: An Introduction

Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation is also known as physiatry or rehabilitation medicine. It aims to enhance and restore functional ability and ultimately, the quality of life to those with physical impairments or disabilities affecting the brain, spinal cord, nerves, bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, and tendons. A physician having completed training and certification in this field is referred to as a physiatrist. Unlike other medical specialties, physical medical rehabilitation focuses on a medical cure to maximize patient’s independence in activities of daily living and improve the quality of life.

Purpose of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation

The purpose of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation is to assist patients with chronic pain, diseases, and disabilities to progress towards optimal function. It involves the use of physical agents and therapeutic exercises to treat patients in order to:-

  • Reduce pain
  • Increase mobility
  • Improve the quality of life
  • Recover from severe and temporary impairment
  • Learn how to use assistive devices such as wheelchairs, walkers, and braces

Role of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Physicians

Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Physicians are also known as physiatrists. They treat a wide variety of medical conditions that affect the brain, spinal cord, nerves, bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, and tendons. Some of the physiatrists have specialized training in brain injury medicine, hospice and palliative medicine, neuromuscular medicine, pain medicine, pediatric rehabilitation medicine, spinal cord injury medicine, and sports medicine.

Specifically, physiatrists treat patients of all ages, focus treatment on function, have broad medical expertise that allows them to treat disabling conditions, diagnose and treat pain caused due to an injury, illness, or disabling condition, determine and lead a treatment and prevention plan. They lead a team of medical professionals that may include physical therapists, occupational therapists, and physical extenders to optimize patient care. They also work with other physicians that may include primary care physicians, neurologists, orthopedic surgeons, and many others to treat the whole person, not just the problem area.

When to See a Physiatrist or Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Physician?

Consider visiting a Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation physician if:-

  • You had an accident, injury or chronic condition that has left you under pain or with limited functionality.
  • You are contemplating or recovering from surgery.
  • You have an illness or you need treatment for an illness that has diminished your energy or ability to function smoothly.
  • You are recovering from the effects of a stroke or other problems related to nerve damage.
  • You are suffering from chronic pain due to arthritis, repetitive stress injury, or back problems.
  • Excess weight is making it difficult to exercise or has caused some health problems.
  • You think you are too old to exercise or perform some form of physical activity.
  • Life changes such as childbirth or menopause have created new challenges to your body function.

What are the Common Diseases Treated by Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Specialists/Physiatrists?

  • Joint Pain
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Low Back Pain
  • Cervical Sprain and Strain
  • Diabetic Lumbosacral Plexopathy
  • Hamstring Strain
  • Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia
  • Overuse Injury
  • Postexercise Muscle Soreness
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Muscle Sprain


What are the Common Procedures done by Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Doctors/Physiatrists?

  • Electrical muscle stimulation
  • Infrared therapy
  • Paraffin Wax Bath therapy
  • Short Wave Diathermy
  • Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)
  • Ultrasonic Therapy
  • Spinal cord stimulation
  • Trigger Point Injections
  • Post Polio Exercise
  • Caudal Epidural Blocks

What Training do Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Doctors Have?

In order to become a certified Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation doctor, aspirants are required to complete a five and a half years M.B.B.S. as a part of their graduation program from a medical college that is followed by specialized training in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation as a part of the post-graduation.

Dr. Rishab Sharma

Dr. Rishab Sharma MBBS, MD (Internal Medicine) He is associated with Fortis Escorts Hospital, Jaipur. Dr. Rishab has wide experience in managing a variety of diseases, as well as managing critical care units in large government and corporate hospitals.

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