What Is Physiatry
Health and Wellness

What Is Physiatry?

There are many different specialities in the field of medicine. Some are well-known and a large number of the general public has visited one of these specialists. Determatologits, urologists, gynaecologists, and paediatricians are some of the most familiar. The same is true of dentists and ophthalmologists and many have also had surgery.

One of the newer and less well-known fields of medicine is physiatry. It’s a shortened version of physical medicine and rehabilitation. Unless you or a loved one have been disabled or impaired due to injury or accident, you probably have never visited a physiatrist. It’s a vital field and one people should be aware of.


The Physiatrist

The journey from the beginnings of the speciality to the outstanding physiatrists of today, such as Dr Jordan Sudberg, began in the early 20th Century. Physical medicine and rehabilitative medicine began as two separate and unofficial fields of medicine. Both specialities had the common goal of treating people with disabilities to allow them to experience a high quality of life. 

One of the pioneers of physical medicine, Frank H. Krusen coined the term physiatry in 1938. Physiatry developed further and gained recognition when it was used to treat wounded soldiers in both world wars. It was officially established as a medical speciality in 1947 and the Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation was formed under the authority of the American Board of Medical Specialties. 


The Patients

The patients of physiatrists may have serious disabilities due to amputation, traumatic brain injury, stroke, or a spinal cord injury. These treatments call for the physiatrist to lead a team of medical professionals that can include speech therapists, occupational, physical, and recreational therapists, nurses, social workers, and psychologists. 

A physiatrist can also perform outpatient procedures on people with injuries to their joints or muscles, pain-causing syndromes, wounds that aren’t healing, or other problems that can cause partial disability. The aim of the physiatrist is to restore enough functionality to allow the patient to live a full and satisfying life.


The Training

After completion of a pre-medical degree, a physiatrist spends a year as an intern receiving general medical training and a four-year residency in physical medicine and rehabilitation. Resident training includes a set of basic skills and each student will also be trained in their chosen speciality. 

All residents receive training in an inpatient setting in a number of types of rehabilitation including:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Severe burns
  • Cancer
  • Strokes 
  • Pediatric rehabilitation

Additionally, residents will study in one of seven accredited sub-specialities which are recognized in the U.S. These are sports medicine, pain medicine, neuromuscular medicine, brain injury, spinal cord injury, pediatric rehabilitation medicine, and hospice and palliative medicine. Special training is more thorough and detailed and provides a level of expertise.

Physiatry is a relatively new field of medicine but a vital one. These medical specialists enable people who are disabled from birth, or because of an accident, trauma, or disease to enjoy a higher quality of life than they would be able to without treatment. 

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