Female patient visiting her physiatrist.

When Should I See a Physiatrist?

Many patients wonder when it’s appropriate to consult a physiatrist rather than an orthopedic surgeon. In fact, both of these medical specialists have important places in the world of modern medicine. This article is meant to clarify when seeing a physiatrist, like one of the acclaimed doctors at Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine, is not only appropriate but probably your best choice in terms of experiencing prompt pain relief and restoration of function.

Physiatry is a medical discipline that came into being in 1926, after the end of World War I, a time when a great many wounded soldiers, some permanently disabled, required ongoing medical treatment. From its inception, physiatry has been a holistic specialty. Its committed practitioners have always taken into account the entire body and mind of the patient they are diagnosing and treating. Physiatrists are focused on making their patients more comfortable and better able to function as quickly as possible.

Differences Between Physiatrists and Orthopedic Surgeons

While orthopedic surgeons are well-trained to repair bone and joint damage surgically, physiatrists are all about managing pain, both acute and chronic, and rehabilitating patients to regain strength and mobility. Both types of physicians can prescribe medication and perform medical procedures, but physiatrists do not perform surgery. 

When surgery is required, however, physiatrists often prepare patients to be as well-equipped and pain-free as possible going into the operation and assist them by helping to speed up and maximize the recovery process. Furthermore, because physiatrists do not perform surgery, they emphasize nonsurgical treatments, including complementary forms of therapy.

Physiatrists Diagnose and Treat Patients in Unique Ways

Although both physiatrists and orthopedists make use of up-to-date diagnostic imaging tests, such as X-rays, MRI scans, CT scans, and ultrasound, physiatrists often use ultrasound as a treatment method as well. In a similar fashion, both doctors use targeted injections and electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction studies as diagnostic tools, but physiatrists also use targeted injections and EMG to relieve pain in the spine or other parts of the body.

Other treatment procedures physiatrists routinely use to return their patients to good health are:

  • Acupuncture 
  • Pulsed Electromagnetic Field (PEMF)  therapy
  • Customized therapeutic exercise
  • Pain medications and muscle relaxants
  • Epidural, joint, and soft tissue injections to relieve pain and inflammation
  • Musculoskeletal ultrasound

As you can see, physiatrists have a great many nonsurgical treatments in their bag of tricks.

Problems That Can Be Resolved Without Surgery

A great many patients come to the offices of Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine seeking relief and recovery from incapacity due to:

In addition, our talented physiatrists assist patients who are dealing with ongoing serious disease conditions like:

  • Fibromyalgia
  • Osteoporosis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome
  • Cerebral palsy 
  • Post-polio syndrome
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease)

In some cases, patients recovering from strokes, brain injuries or amputations can be greatly helped by physiatric treatment. Remember those soldiers returning from World War I?

When It’s Time to See a Physiatrist 

If you are experiencing pain, impaired mobility or range of motion, numbness or tingling, you should consult with a well-respected physiatrist. Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine can offer you the help you need if you:

  • Have suffered an injury that causes pain and/or interferes with physical function
  • Have an illness, condition or disability that has left you in pain or impaired
  • Are experiencing chronic back pain, neck pain, wrist, shoulder or knee pain
  • Have suffered a stroke and want to improve your ability to live a more normal life
  • Are preparing for surgery and want to be as strong as possible for the operation
  • Are recovering from surgery and want to regain your strength and mobility safely

Of course, there are many other situations in which seeing a highly qualified physiatrist is an excellent idea. Call Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine — we are eager to make you feel better.