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What is Physiatry?

Physiatry, or Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation (PM&R), is one of 24 medical specialties certified by the American Board of Medical Specialties. Doctors that practice this specialty are called Physiatrists or Rehabilitation Physicians. They provide integrated non-surgical treatment of many injuries and diseases of the brain and spinal cord, muscles, tendons, ligaments, as well as joint and bone injuries. The goal is always to enhance performance, reduce pain, and lower future risk of injury.

Rehabilitation Physicians use all the modern evaluation techniques available in medicine today, including sophisticated imaging and blood studies, as well as specialized nerve and muscle testing. They pay unique attention to subtle signs and symptoms on physical examination and history taking. Their treatment plans can span the spectrum of exercise, changes in work or home environment, assistive devices, medications, natural supplements, and specialized injections. They often work closely with other medical professionals, such as Physical and Occupational Therapists. They may on occasion work with Speech and Language Therapists, and Psychologists and Vocational Counselor’s.

Some Board Certified Physiatrists, such as Dr. Lichter, have multiple board certifications due to extra training and proven competency in sub-specialties, such as electrodiagnostic testing (nerve and muscle testing) and pain management.


  • How is Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation (Physiatry) different than other specialties that might treat similar problems, such as Orthopedics or Neurosurgery?

    Many medical specialties over-lap in the types of diseases or injuries that they evaluate and treat. Different specialists often work together if a more comprehensive approach to treatment is needed. The difference is usually one of focus. Orthopedics and Neurosurgery are surgical specialties, whereas Rehabilitation Medicine is non-surgical. Needle techniques, if needed, are available to Rehabilitation Physicians but are considered minimally invasive compared with surgery.

  • How is Rehabilitation Medicine (Physiatry) different than non-surgical specialties like Neurology or Rheumatology?

    As with Orthopedics and Neurosurgery, treatment collaboration is sometimes necessary. Again, the difference in the specialties is one of focus, and treatment options. There are diseases of the nervous system, especially the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), where disease altering medications have been developed and are sometimes important. However, for most neurological and rheumatologic conditions the most important aspect for the patient is managing all the secondary effects of the disease (such as pain, loss of sensation, weakness, and joint disfigurement); as well as maintaining functional activity. Rehabilitation Physicians (Physiatrists) address these important problems. Also, Rehabilitation Physicians have extensive training in exercise, specialized splinting, and ergonomic considerations. Also, they have specialized training in nerve and muscle testing, and specialized training in interventional (injection) techniques that are not available to most other specialists.

RehabHealth News

  • Dr. Lichter was named one of CT Magazines “Top Docs” award multiple years in a row.