About Physiatry

Why Visit a PM&R Physician

Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) physicians, also known as physiatrists, treat a wide variety of medical conditions affecting the brain, spinal cord, nerves, bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, and tendons. By taking the whole body into account, they are able to accurately pinpoint problems and enhance performance without surgery.

Consider seeing a PM&R physician if:

  • You had an accident or you have an injury or chronic condition that has left you with pain or limited function
  • You’re contemplating or recovering from surgery
  • You have an illness or treatment for an illness that has diminished your energy or ability to move easily
  • You’re recovering from the effects of a stroke or other problems related to nerve damage
  • You have chronic pain from arthritis, a repetitive stress injury, or back problems
  • Excess weight makes it difficult to exercise or has caused health problems
  • You think you’re too old to exercise
  • Life changes such as childbirth or menopause have created new challenges to your physical function

Getting started

A PM&R physician will thoroughly assess your condition, needs, and expectations and rule out any serious medical illnesses to develop a treatment plan. A clear understanding of your condition and limitations will help you and your PM&R physician to develop a treatment plan suited to your unique needs.

Tailoring your plan

You need the right type of exercise to effectively overcome fitness obstacles. A runner may have gained weight after being sidelined by a knee injury. A PM&R physician can prescribe tailored, low-impact activities that burn calories without aggravating the injury, simultaneously prescribing physical therapy and use of a brace to strengthen and support the knee. Another patient may be suffering from chronic neck pain. The PM&R physician might prescribe medication, stretching, and massage for short-term pain relief, as well as strengthening exercises to prevent future pain. If surgery is a necessity, PM&R physicians work with patients and their surgeons before and after surgery. By directing your treatment team and collaborating with other health care professionals, a PM&R physician is able to specially design a treatment program tailored to you.

Understanding and identifying your goals

Do you want to strengthen an injured muscle, find relief from chronic pain, or walk up the stairs without being winded? A PM&R physician can work with you to determine realistic short- and long-term goals. Along the way, he or she will help you to find relief from pain, achieve successes in rehabilitation or exercise programs, overcome your setbacks, and reassess your goals if necessary.

How can I locate a rehabilitation physician?

The American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (AAPM&R) represents more than 9,000 rehabilitation physicians. As a public service, AAPM&R provides listings of its member rehabilitation physicians by state.

Click here for our online "Find a PM&R Physician" searchable database.