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What Is a Physiatrist?

physiatrist-pronunciationby Susan Louisa Montauk, M.D.

Q. What’s a physiatrist, and when would someone think about going to one?

A. It was my medical-school graduation party. Brian announced to a group of us standing around that he was going into a physiatry residency. Suddenly, the room went quiet. I broke the silence with the question on everyone’s mind: “What’s physiatry, really?”

It’s now incredible to me that so many of us made it through medical school without understanding the role of such an important discipline. Actually, I was well into my second year of training to be a family physician before I understood what wonderful gifts physiatrists could bestow upon many of my patients.


What Is a Physiatrist?

A physiatrist is a doctor who specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation. Physiatrists can treat a wide range of problems—from shoulder pain to spinal-cord injuries to multiple sclerosis.

newsletter-graphicPhysiatrists provide productive, non-surgical approaches that often keep my patients out of the operating room. Additionally, they are trained to recognize their limitations when surgery, rheumatology or other specialties are the therapy of choice.

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What Does a Physiatrist Do?

The physiatrist’s main goal is to restore function.

Sometimes, I request a single consultation for a patient with a work-related injury, and within that one meeting, the physiatrist suggests specific physical therapy, an assessment of the work environment and a different medication than I have been using.

Other times, I may send a patient with a chronic disease such as multiple sclerosis and ask the physiatrist to take over the musculoskeletal management of my patient’s care.

Or, I might refer a patient with a severe, ongoing backache to a pain clinic with a four-member interdisciplinary team only to find that the steroid injections successfully placed into my patient’s spine that kept him from having surgery were administered by, you guessed it, a physiatrist.

If you or someone you know has muscle or joint aches and pains that have not gone away with care from your family doctor, you may want to ask whether a physiatrist could help.


SUSAN LOUISA MONTAUK, M.D.,
is a board-certified family doctor and professor of clinical family medicine at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.


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Last updated and/or approved: April 2011.
Original article appeared in spring 2007 former print magazine. Bio current as of that issue. This general health-care information is not meant as individual advice. Please see our disclaimer.

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It's pronounced Chiropractic!
written by brian , August 31, 2012

Chiropractic has been doing this since 1895. Medicine tried to stamp out chiropractic and was defeated in supreme court in 1991 in the Wilks case. But now, instead of admitting how they brainwashed generations that Chiropractors are quacks, they'll just move in and make people think that they invented this "NEW WAY OF THINKING."
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