What Is a Physiatrist?


Quick Answer

A physiatrist is a doctor who specializes in non-surgical rehabilitation and pain management of conditions associated with the spine. Physiatrists focus on treating disabilities and diseases of the musculoskeletal system, which includes the brain, spine, joints, muscles and nerves.

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What Is a Physiatrist?
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Full Answer

Physiatry is a non-surgical form of treating musculoskeletal disease and injury and managing pain associated with these conditions. Physiatrists are spine specialists, and treat patients with a spinal injury, such as one sustained in a sporting or car accident, and patients with chronic pain associated with a spinal condition, such as siatica or scoliosis. Physiatrists may require a referral from a patient's primary care physician. They often perform several physical tests as well as a physical exam of the patient, and may require X-rays or blood tests to help determine the best course of treatment.

Physiatrists can prescribe medication, administer spinal injections and refer a patient to other forms of therapy. To become licensed in physiatry, a medical resident can pursue a designation as a medical doctor with advanced training in musculoskeletal conditions or become a doctor of osteopathic medicine. A physiatrist is generally part of a team of doctors used to treat the whole patient, and works closely with primary care physicians as well as physical and occupational therapists.

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