What is Physiatry?

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  • Written By: Sherry Holetzky
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 13 October 2019
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Physiatry, pronounced fizzy-at'-tree, is a form of rehabilitative medicine. It is implemented to achieve better physical health and healing without surgery, through practices including various physical therapies, medications and other non-invasive methods. It is a specialty also known as "PM&R," which stands for physical medicine and rehabilitation. Physiatry has been in use for several decades but was not recognized as a medical specialization until as late as 1947.

Physiatry is practiced with patients suffering from disabilities caused by illness, injury or birth defect, which includes but is not limited to severe burns, spinal cord damage, head trauma, stroke, osteoporosis, arthritis, work and sports related injuries and war wounds. Physiatry employs medication, as well as orthotics and other non-invasive options. These options include physical therapy, exercise therapy, heat, cold or water therapy, muscle and nerve stimulation and a host of other options.


The goal is to offer each patient the highest quality of life by strengthening and restoring range of motion, physical ability, and self-sufficiency where possible, without surgical procedures. Physiatry often includes teams comprised of people from different disciplines who work together, each offering his or her own specialized knowledge in order to produce the best outcome for the patient. A team may include a physiatrist, a psychologist and a social worker. The physiatrist obviously works with physical function, while a psychologist may be able to help the patient sort through difficult emotions and improve self-confidence. A social worker may help the patient obtain assistance with medical bills, medication, shelter, and transportation to and from appointments.

To practice physiatry, one must complete four years of study at an accredited medical school, after which he or she must intern for at least one year before performing as a physiatry resident in a hospital setting for at least three years. Physiatrists learn and continue to develop the best ways to improve the quality of life and physical health of disabled persons. This often leads to restoring a patient's independence, or at least giving the person more control over his or her life.


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Post 2

What involvement do psychiatrists have with artificial limbs? Do they design them? Prescribe them? Or just work with patients who have them from other sources?

Post 1

This description is incomplete. Physiatrists also care for persons with musculoskeletal injuries like on the job back and neck injuries, sports injuries and keeping people exercising.

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