Sub-Acute Care Team: The Physiatrist

Physiatry is a branch of physical medicine and part of orthopedic rehabilitation. The physiatrist specializes in health problems following injury, accident or illness.

There are several specialties involved in the sub-acute care team. Meet – the physiatrist.

We hear much more about the physical therapist, but there is a great difference between the two.

A physiatrist is a medical doctor, who has completed medical school, with the addition of 4 years of residency training in the field. While the physiatrist does not perform operations, he can prescribe medications and refer a patient to physical therapy and rehabilitation. 

When should one see a physiatrist?

A person who has a disability or impediment due to injury of disease should visit a physiatrist. For example, spinal cord injuries or a frozen shoulder. People who acquired disabilities work with a physiatrist in order to improve their quality of life.

What are the injuries that a physiatrist specializes in?

  • Sports and spine related injuries
  • Injuries/impediments due to illness
  • lower back pain
  • fibromyalgia
  • neuropathic conditions

Would you meet the physiatrist in a rehabilitation center?

Yes. A patient in a rehabilitation setting may have more than one medical issue, and the physiatrist will be in charge of comprehensively managing the issues on the rehabilitative journey. After injury or illness, a person wants to get their life back together again. As far as is possible, the physiatrist will help to achieve that, without resorting to surgery.

Will the physiatrist send a patient for further testing?

Sometimes, after listening to a patient’s description, in order to better understand the problems, the patient might be sent to perform further tests, such as,

How can the physiatrist help a patient to achieve functional ability and quality of life?

The main goals of the physiatrist include:

(1) diagnosis of the problem,

(2) restoring function as best as possible,

(3) pain reduction

(4) treating the whole person, not just the problematic symptoms.

The overall goal is to help a person stay as active as possible, no matter their age.

Every person on the sub-acute care team works towards curing health problems following injury, accident or illness. The physiatrist plays an important part in the team. An alternative title for a physiatrist is, “non-operative pain management doctor”, but most people use the more shorter title of “Doctor”.


health problems following injury - the physiatrist

There are no limits to what the physiatrist wants to try to do to help patients. The goal – as much mobility as possible for the patient, and quality of life.


Photo by Matteo Catanese on Unsplash