Also known as a rehabilitation doctor, a physiatrist is a type of physician who treats individuals suffering from both minor and serious physical injuries. Like other medical doctors, a physiatrist generally completes four years of medical school, three years of residency, and a one-year internship.
Training for physiatrists focus primarily on nerve, muscle, and bone injuries, as well as illnesses that can affect the aforementioned. In addition, the physiatrist also learns how to provide pain relief for these types of conditions without invasive surgical procedures; they are specifically trained in physical rehabilitation and have the authority to write prescriptions.
Physiatrists focus on preventative care and rehabilitation, often using assistive devices such as braces and artificial limbs, as well as less traditional methods such as electrotherapy, massages and heat therapy.
Physiatrists treat a variety of patients, from those suffering from serious health conditions like cancer to individuals who have suffered minor injuries in sports-related or automobile accidents.
Most physiatrists treat a broad range of conditions; however, many others focus on specific areas such as sports medicine, brain injuries or pediatric physiatry. Regardless of the specific practice, the patient’s age, or the extent of the patient’s pain, it is the responsibility of the physiatrist to provide personalized recovery options to all individuals under his or her care.
To do this, the physiatrist creates a personalized treatment plan for each patient. They will suggest therapeutic treatments as well as specific lifestyle changes that can help prevent future injuries.
Rather than limiting treatment to one specific area, a physiatrist focuses on treating the person as a whole. Oftentimes, this requires not just medical treatment, but also vocational, emotional and social counseling.
Unlike most short-term medical treatments, a physiatrist’s treatment plan usually requires lifelong changes. In many cases, the patient’s treatment plan will require treatment from other physicians or social workers, psychologists and counselors.
Although the exact plan for treatment is different for each patient, the goal of a physiatrist remains the same: to relieve the patient’s pain and help improve the quality of his or her life through the use of non-surgical methods.