What is Medical Rehabilitation?

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  • Written By: Sandra Koehler
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2019
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Medical rehabilitation is a term used to describe a treatment plan whose focus is on maximizing functional abilities to promote physical and mental health. It can concentrate on the physical or cognitive aspects of recovery from an illness, disease, condition or injury. It typically employs the use of a multi-disciplinary team of health professionals to promote overall health.

Many ailments such as cancer and strokes, affect a large part of the body. Medical rehabilitation is a process to help regain quality of life through things like exercise, activities of daily living and cognitive challenges. It can help regain physical and mental abilities to increase physical, mental and occupational health.

Medical rehabilitation is often a course of action with accidents or injuries. It can be a helpful addition to the management of chronic pain issues where mobility and ability are limited. It is also used when recovering from conditions such as alcoholism or drug dependency. Treatments can be offered through inpatient or outpatient services, depending on the nature and severity of impairment.

Inpatient services often encompass post-acute rehabilitation to help bridge the gap between an acute hospital stay and discharge to home. The goal here is to increase strength, general mobility and daily activity skills to assure safety upon discharge to home. This is also where the process of returning to normal activities is begun. Inpatient services are not always required.


Outpatient medical rehabilitation occurs when the patient has returned home. Here the goal is to return to normal functioning. Many of the goals set in the inpatient setting are continued and expanded in outpatient rehab. It is here where many functional capacity evaluations are performed to establish whether physical or mental impairments have dissipated enough to return to work.

Medical rehabilitation offers a comprehensive team of healthcare professionals to include physicians, nurses and therapists. Therapist involvement depends on the complexity of the ailment. Commonly, physical therapists and occupational therapists focus on the gross motor and fine motor skills necessary for activities of daily living.

Speech and language pathologists are often called in when there is a problem with speech, eating or cognition. Other healthcare professionals that may be utilized include psychologists, audiologists or other specialized healthcare providers. In most cases a case manager is assigned to overlook individual cases to ensure the best quality treatment and to address questions and concerns of the patient.

In short, medical rehabilitation is the recovery of physical and mental capacities after an injury, ailment, condition or disease. Most medical rehabilitation programs are individualized to meet personal goals. It is a comprehensive range of services to assist the patient in returning to former activities.


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