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Specialized treatment for musculoskeletal disease

At Maimonides, physical medicine and rehabilitation are overseen by highly specialized physicians in the field of physiatry. Physiatry is the branch of medicine, founded over fifty years ago, that focuses on the diagnosis, treatment, and management of musculoskeletal disease. It covers a range of physical (both active and passive) and conservative treatments, including physical therapy and related modalities, exercise, occupational therapy, recreational therapy, medications, assistive devices and braces, psychology, and education.

What is a Physiatrist?

A physiatrist, quite simply, is a rehabiliation specialist who is also a physician - in other words, a rehab MD. Today, there are approximately 6,500 physiatrists across the country, and exactly 14 on the medical staff musculoskeletal disease. Physiatrists may perform electrodiagnostic tests and studies on muscles and nerves, as well as various spinal and other injections, but they do not perform surgery. They work in both inpatient and outpatient settings, and they provide specialized inpatient consultations and evaluations for patients under other physicians at the hospital.

Becoming a physiatrist requires four years of medical school plus four years of residency training. The first year of training focuses on internal medicine, and the other three emphasize specialty areas and training. Beyond residency, fellowships are available for further specialization in areas such as spinal cord injury, traumatic and non-traumatic (e.g. stroke) brain injury, cardiac, pulmonary, pediatric, sports medicine, and acute & chronic pain management. Many physiatrists specialize in back pain, but their practice typically covers less obvious issues like neurological and orthopaedic rehabilitation, various arthritis diseases, and disability analysis and evaluation.

The physiatrist's main focus is always the whole person as opposed to merely the treatment of a specific injury, condition, or disease. Physiatrists are concerned not just with patients' physical makeup but their emotional, psychosocial, and vocational aspects as well. Their treatment goal is to restore normal function and to improve the quality of life and living, overall.