What is Physiatry?

What is a Physiatrist?

A physiatrist (fizz ee at’ trist) is a physician specializing in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation (PM&R). Established as a medical specialty in the 1940s, PM&R is a discipline primarily concerned with acute and chronic problems of the neuromusculoskeletal system. The goal of the physiatrist is to restore function and relieve pain in patients with a variety of disorders using a non-surgical multidisciplinary treatment approach.

To become a physiatrist, individuals must successfully complete four years of graduate medical education and four additional years of postdoctoral residency training. Residency training includes one year spent developing fundamental medical or surgical clinical skills and three additional years of dedicated training in the full scope of the specialty. To become board-certified in PM&R, physiatrists are required to pass both a written and oral examination administered by the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (ABPM&R). Many physiatrists, like our physicians, choose to pursue additional fellowship training in a specific area of the specialty. Fellowships are now available for specialized study in areas such as spine and musculoskeletal rehabilitation, pediatrics, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, and sports medicine.

Physiatrists may see a person who lifts a heavy object at work and experiences back pain, a basketball player who sprains an ankle and needs rehabilitation to play again, or a knitter who has carpal tunnel syndrome. Physiatrists’ patients include people with arthritis, tendonitis, any kind of spinal pain, and work- or sports-related injuries. They are trained to perform electrodiagnostic studies in the evaluation of patients with disorders of the nervous or musculoskeletal systems. In addition, a select group of physiatrists have been fellowship trained to perform interventional spinal procedures utilizing fluoroscopic guidance.

Doctors who specialize in physiatry may practice in rehabilitation centers, hospitals, and in private offices. They can have broad practices, but many, like the physicians of Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine, choose to concentrate on a particular area of care such as spine and musculoskeletal medicine.

Thus, appropriately trained physiatrists such as Dr. Lipetz, Dr. Beer, Dr. Lee and Dr. Smith are uniquely qualified to diagnose and manage spinal and musculoskeletal conditions utilizing a comprehensive, non-surgical treatment approach.

Learn more about physiatry at the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (AAPM&R).

Physiatry Training

To become a physiatrist, after four years of undergraduate training, individuals must then successfully complete four years of graduate medical education and four additional years of postdoctoral residency training. Residency training includes one year, often referred to as “internship”, spent developing fundamental clinical skills in the areas of internal medicine and/or general surgery. This year is followed by three additional years of dedicated training in the full scope of the specialty of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation (PM&R).

There are 79 accredited residency programs in PM&R in the United States. Many physiatrists choose to pursue additional advanced degrees (MS, PhD) or complete fellowship training in a specific area of the specialty. Fellowships are available for specialized study in such areas as Interventional Spine, Sports Medicine, Pediatrics, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Spinal Cord Injury. The physiatrists of Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine are uniquely fellowship trained in Interventional Spine and Musculoskeletal Medicine. Drs. Lipetz, Beer, and Lee received their specialty training at two of the most highly regarded and sought after fellowship training programs at nationally recognized medical centers.

Following clinical training, to become board-certified in PM&R, physiatrists are required to pass both written and oral examinations administered by the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (ABPM&R). The ABPM&R also has agreements with each of the boards of Pediatrics, Internal Medicine, and Neurology to allow special training programs leading to certification in both specialties.

Physiatrists who have completed the appropriate training and experience in particular areas of clinical expertise are also given the unique opportunity to pursue additional and subspecialty board certification. Such opportunities exist in the areas of Pain Medicine, Sports Medicine, Spinal Cord Injury, Pediatric Rehabilitation, and Neuromuscular Medicine.

Additional Resources

Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine offers the following complimentary Guide to Spinal Injection Procedures. Patients and other individuals wishing to learn more about Spinal Injection Procedures will find it to be a useful resource.

External Websites

Dr. Lipetz, Dr. Beer, Dr. Lee and Dr. Smith recommend the following external websites to their patients. Always remember that no website can take the place of professional care. Please note that these information resources are external to the Long Island Spine Rehabiltation Medicine website.

Medical Associations and Professional Resources

North American Spine Society
International Spine Intervention Society
American Academy of Electrodiagnostic and Neuromuscular Medicine
American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Association of Academic Physiatrists

Informational Web Resources

SpineUniverse
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

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