It’s OK to not know what a physiatrist is or does. It’s not something we hear or learn about everyday. In the medical world, it is a relatively new concentration. Physiatrists specialize in physical medicine, pain medicine, and rehabilitation. They are spine specialists who focus on the musculoskeletal system, which includes bones, joints, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and nerves. More often than not, physiatrists pursue additional schooling in one or more specific subspecialties, along with the standard medical training.
Why see a physiatrist?
Generally, patients like the idea of physiatry because it focuses on healing through pain management and rehabilitation rather than surgery. Physiatrists provide enough pain management to enable patients to make progress with physical therapy and rehabilitation. Often, this focus is better as a long-term solution. Coastal Spine lives by the same philosophy. The physicians at Coastal Spine are all board-certified and are experts in their specific fields of physiatry. South Jersey’s top spine center emphasizes a nonsurgical approach to back and neck pain, helping patients get back to their normal activities. Since physiatrists are experts in spine issues, receiving a diagnosis from them means you’re getting the most accurate reading of your symptoms.
What can a physiatrist treat?
Physiatrists treat a wide scope of conditions, ranging from short-term sports or work-related injuries to long-term chronic disorders. Seeing a physiatrist would be beneficial if you have:
- Musculoskeletal disorders
- Back and neck pain
- Spinal cord injuries
- Fibromyalgia and other chronic pain conditions
- Pain problems following trauma and surgeries
Physiatrists use many of the same diagnostic tools used by other physicians, such as X-rays, CT scans, MRI scans, and PET scans. Additionally, they use other specialized techniques like EMGs, nerve conduction studies, and somatosensory evoked potentials.
The difference between physical therapy and physiatry.
Physiatry can seem similar to the practices of physical therapy. They both treat patients with the same types of conditions through nonsurgical approaches. However, physiatrists are physicians who have completed medical school plus four years of residency training. Physiatrists are not the ones who are performing the actual therapies. Physical therapists are trained in the clinical features of common musculoskeletal pathology and develop a treatment and exercise regimen. Physiatrists are the ones to make and manage medical diagnoses and prescribe the therapies that physical therapists perform. This is not to say that physical therapists and physiatrists are separate entities. Both work together to collaborate and communicate to ensure patients are receiving the best treatment.
If you’re experiencing back and neck pain, we highly recommend physiatry. To learn more and find a physician that’s right for you, take a look at our page on choosing a physician to solve your back pain. Want us to take a closer look?