What Kind of Work Does a Physiatrist Do?


Quick Answer

Physiatrists provide medical diagnostic services and treatments, including interventional spinal therapeutics, peripheral joint injections and musculoskeletal ultrasounds, to individuals experiencing a loss of physical function due to spinal cord injury, stroke, arthritis and developmental disorders such as cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy. Also known as physical medicine and rehabilitation physicians, physiatrists serve patients of all ages in a variety of medical settings and treat conditions of the bones, muscles, joints and nervous system.

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Full Answer

Physiatrists treat sports injuries, such achilles tendonitis, rotator cuff injuries and stress fractures. They provide post-operative care to joint replacement, organ transplant and amputation patients and assist in the management of chronic pain. Electromyography, the insertion of fine needle electrodes into the muscles, is one of the procedures that physiatrists typically use to determine the root cause, either myopathy or neuropathy, of muscle weakness. Physiatrists also use electrodes to identify the location of nervous system lesions.

Physiatrists also treat spasticity, which often occurs as a complication of a central nervous system injury due to stroke, multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy. The physiatrist can treat this condition with oral agents, various injections and an intrathecal baclofen pump, which is a round metal disc implanted under abdominal skin. Physiatrists also prescribe therapeutic exercise programs and assistive and adaptive equipment, as well as fitting wheel chairs, braces and prostheses.

Training to work as a physiatrist requires completion of four years of medical school and four years of residency, typically followed by two-year post-residency fellowship in one of several specialty areas.

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