Defining the Role of a Physiatrist

Physiatrist is someone who practices in the field of physiatry. This field deals with rehabilitation and medicine and is an offshoot of medicine that deals with treatment and diagnosis of illnesses using physical methods.

According to the medicinal field the management of a disease requires a combination of medications and physical therapy. They are specialized in various treatment methods of the musculoskeletal system; this broadens their field of research making them equally effective for treating different cases of muscle pain. The medical experts specialize in dealing with tendons, ligaments nerves and various other structures. Their main focus is to deal with musculoskeletal disorder that can lead to disorder or pain when carrying out the day to day activities.

The treatment that they give focuses primarily on ensuring the patient is relieved of all sorts of muscular pain and can carry out the day to day routine without much hassle. He can assume the role of both a medical doctor (MD) and the doctor who deals with osteopathic medicine (DO). There are many names for people in this field, which are as follows.

  • PM and R physician
  • Physiatrist
  • Physician of physical medicine and rehabilitation

They have to go through a lot of hard work and toil to achieve a specialization in the field. Here is how they train and specialize in their field.

Training and Specialization of Physiatry

Like any other medical professional, training to become a physiatrist can be tough. The training involves of four year of medical school. After they have completed medical school they are required to practice three years of residency and specialty training.

Further specialization and training is required after residency which is available with the help of fellowships in different fields. A fellowship requires a doctor to gain a specialty in a field for duration of a program that usually lasts one or two years.

They usually complete one of the following fellowships that provide them with special training in an additional program that diversifies their area of treatment. Here is a list of some fellowships that these doctors complete.

Pediatric Medicine

This is a course that focuses on dealing with problems that children under the age of 18 suffer from. The medicine is made specifically for the age group.

Sports Medicine

Another fellowship that they can pursue is related to the field of sports injuries. Creating instant pain relief and medicine for players of sports is an interesting course.

Brain Injury

Damage to the brain can have an impact on the muscles which is why they must take action to ensure efficient rehabilitation of the patient.

Injury to the Spinal Cord

This is another fellowship that teaches them the art of rehabilitating patients suffering from spinal cord injuries.


This is a treatment that is designed to cure sciatica, back pain or any other form of dysfunction that is there in the spinal cord.

Management of Pain

Those doctors who have their specialty in pain medicine are aware of the injections and medications that can cure a patient’s pain. Physiatrists who are aware of pain medicine usually carry out special training in injections that are used to treat pain.

Spine and Physiatry

They have to deal with a wide range of musculoskeletal problems on a daily basis. Here is a list of back conditions that only these physicians have an answer to.

  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Myofascial pain
  • Injuries to the Spinal Cord
  • Work Injuries
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Sciatica, Back Pain
  • Fibromyalgia

Since the spine is pivot of the important musculoskeletal system, many of these doctors take actions to ensure efficient treatment of the back pain. The others whose focus is more on treating spinal problems prioritize rehabilitating the body through the help of injections. The treatment at the end of the day depends on the physician’s priority and specialty.

Rehabilitation and Physical Medicine Specialty

The field of rehabilitation and physical medicine is more than 60 years old. In total there are more than 8,000 physicians that are practicing this field diligently.

There are various spine centers and hospitals located around the world. The hospitals focus on the specialty and take numerous physiatrists under their wings. Other specialists offer their services in the hospitals too; these include spine surgeons and specialists of rehabilitation.

Although they might not work directly with a hospital, there are many independent doctors that work in coordination with other doctors to treat the patients. These include spine surgeons, chiropractors and psychologists.

These physicians work hard on treating the whole patient rather than the specific injury. This helps in improving the process of recovery and significantly reduces the chance of recurrence of the illness.

The treatment’s main aim is to restore the normal functioning of the patient and improve the quality of life the patient lives.


They can diagnose problems using various techniques. Skimming through the medical history of the patient and then performing a thorough examination is one method the experts adopt. Furthermore the diagnostic testing procedure involves the use of laboratory testing, MRI scans and X-rays. It also involves the use pf psychological testing.


Another crucial aspect of therapy is rehabilitating the patient. Most of these physicians are skilled in rehabilitation and are aware of the practices and skills that are required to get the patients back on their feet.

The rehabilitation process involves a combination of exercise and physical therapy to ensure the patient can bear the pressures of a high-octane life. While it is normal to use injections and medications to subdue the pain a patient feels, most of these doctors use pain treatment to keep the pain under control.

The profession of physiatry involves all the elements mentioned above. Going through these challenging times helps them in getting ready for any ordeal that comes their way. The availability of a multidisciplinary team at a hospital means that they can consult with specialists of other fields too depending on the medical history of the patient and the ailment the diagnosis reveals.

So this is the journey a physiatrist takes. Next time you visit them don’t forget to check on their academic achievements.