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The Physiatrist’s Role In Recovering From Illness and Injury

Physiatrist telling his patient about her bone condition

Pain is probably the most frustrating part of any injury or illness. It is that fire that lights along our nerves and reminds us that something is wrong. Unfortunately, it is seldom able to tell us much beyond the possible location of the problem. Recovering from any condition that involves dealing with substantial pain tends to be a difficult task. No one wants to press too hard, but illnesses that have led to muscle atrophy or accidents and eventually damage need movement to get better. The muscles need to be used to know their limits and purposes. That’s generally where most of us want to turn to a physiatrist. That is not only their job, but they’re able to help you figure out how to balance the necessary pain of recovery and the necessary pain you shouldn’t have to deal with through medications, exercises, and other techniques. Let’s take a closer look at their exact role so we all have a better idea of what roles they can play in our recoveries.

Specialized Care
We should make it clear what kind of doctor a physiatrist is and what they can do before we go any further. They are doctors that specialized in physical medicine and rehabilitation. This is why you may occasionally hear them referred to as PM&R doctors. This gives them a fairly broad range of what they treat and their methods of treatment. We most commonly end up being sent to a physiatrist when there are issues with our bones, joints, muscles, ligaments, or tendons. They are known to provide treatment in cases that involve the spinal cord, nerves, and brain too though when the source of the problem is likely to be a particular physical injury. Physiatrists can provide initial as well as long term care depending on the particular patient and their injuries. It all depends on what needs to be treated. These are typically one of the better forms of doctor to see for sports injuries and similar problems.

Short Term Care
Assessment is a major part of a physiatrist’s job as it helps them to determine exactly what will work the best for your later care. As a result, they frequently use biopsies and similar diagnostic tools to determine the exact nature of the ailment. This allows them to give you a relatively quick assessment of potential issues and give you a way to care for yourself until a better solution is available. Admittedly, in the case of some injuries all you really need is guidance to ensure the problem has time to decompress and heal. Physiatrists can tell you appropriate steps to take to achieve just that with only a handful of check-ups later on to make sure things are still healing properly. This can transition to longer term care though if the reason for seeing the physiatrist is to help recover from an injury requiring a prosthetic. This can lead to comparatively short term physical therapy to adjust to the prosthetic and later to a longer term relationship revolving around ensuring the prosthetic remains a proper fit and works well.

Long Term Care
As highlighted above, a physiatrist can help with long term care revolving around the use of prosthetics, but they also provide other forms of long term care as well. They are typically one of the standard forms of doctor to be assigned for any physical disability. This allows them to help each patient to find methods of treatment and pain management for their particular conditions. Physiatrists are also often responsible for providing the spinal and joint injections necessary for certain kinds of long term treatments. Ultimately, a physiatrist’s role is to help empower a patient through the right combination of therapies so that they feel they can reclaim their lives. This focus on rehabilitation is ultimately what tends to make them long term care doctors. Eventually one may no longer need their aid regularly, but maintaining a healthy relationship ensures a higher quality of life. It is worth noting that some physiatrists also offer long term care in the form of helping a patient make lifestyle changes as well. Ultimately, your general practitioner will be the one to refer you to a physiatrist if they believe you need one.

A physiatrist has a distinct place within medicine. Their focus on rehabilitation makes them a perfect fit for anyone dealing with long term consequences of an injury or illness. Even less lasting injuries to the muscles can be treated through the combination approach available to a physiatrist. Recovery takes many forms, but there is no denying that a physiatrist has a place in many of those forms.

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