What is Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation?

Physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R), also called physiatry, is the branch of medicine emphasizing the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of disorders – particularly related to the nerves, muscles, bones and brain – that may produce temporary or permanent impairment. PM&R is one of 24 medical specialties certified by the American Board of Medical Specialties.

Physiatrists, or rehabilitation physicians, are medical doctors who have completed training in the medical specialty of PM&R. Rehabilitation physicians treat injuries or illnesses that affect how you move, with the aim of enhancing performance. These specialists treat any disability resulting from disease or injury involving any organ system. The focus is not on one part of the body, but instead on the development of a comprehensive program for putting the pieces of a person’s life back together – medically, socially, emotionally, and vocationally – after injury or disease.

Rehabilitation physicians manage issues that span the entire spectrum, from complicated multiple trauma to injury prevention for athletes. Some rehabilitation physicians have broad-based practices that encompass many different types of patients. Others pursue special interests and focus on specific groups or problems (e.g., rehabilitation physicians who focus on sports medicine treat sports-related injuries, develop programs to help athletes avoid injury, and may do research in the field).

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