Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, also known as physiatry, is a branch of medicine that specializes in diagnosis, treatment, and management of disease for the musculoskeletal system - the muscles, bones, and associated nerves, ligaments, tendons, and other structures - and the musculoskeletal disorders that cause pain and/or difficulty with functioning. 

A physiatrist's treatment focuses on helping the patient become as functional and pain-free as possible in order to participate in and enjoy life as fully as possible.

Physiatrists strive to treat the whole patient - not just the specific injury or condition - in order to improve overall recovery and prevent recurrence of back pain or other source of dysfunction.

The goals of treatment are always to restore the patient's normal function and improve quality of life for patients from a physical, emotional, psychosocial, and vocational perspective.

Physiatrists diagnose injuries and problems of the musculoskeletal system by taking a thorough medical history of the patient and performing a complete physical exam. Further diagnostic testing may include laboratory testing, X-rays, MRI scans, electromyography, and nerve conduction studies.

Electrodiagnostic medicine may be employed in order to detect areas of nerve and muscle damage. This includes electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction studies [NCS], which are used to measure the condition of your nerves and muscles in their relaxed and stimulated states.

The treatment offered for pain and injury is a multifaceted approach that may include one or some combination of:

  • Medications
  • Active physical therapy (exercise), and possibly occupational therapy or recreational therapy
  • Passive physical therapy (modalities, such as ultrasound or ice or heat to relieve the pain) prescribing assistive devices 
  • Perform injections designed to relieve pain, such as injections into ligaments, muscles, bursae, and joints.  
  • Physiatrists may also direct a comprehensive rehabilitation team of professionals that may include chiropractors, physical therapists, occupational therapists, recreational therapists, rehabilitation nurses, psychologists, social workers, and others.