Physiatrists treat a wide range of issues. These include Musculoskeletal and Sports injuries, pain conditions, joint injuries, arthritis, and conditions associated with disabilities. PM&R physicians treat many different areas of a patient's injury or medical condition. These conditions may include: cognitive problems, orthopedic anomalies, mobility concerns, bowel and bladder issues, gait disorders, feeding and swallowing problems, communication difficulties, pain, and muscle stiffness or hypotonia. PM&R physicians work with neurologists, orthopedists, neurosurgeons, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, and primary care physicians to look at the “big picture” of improving function. PM&R physicians prescribe braces/splints to improve arm or leg position or function, and prosthetics for limb loss. We prescribe equipment such as wheelchairs, standers, walkers, bath benches, lifts, etc. that enable caregivers and patients to move or be cared for more safely.  PM&R physicians advise about school and vocational programming, and behavioral and cognitive/learning issues.

PM&R is often called the quality of life profession because its aim is to enhance patient 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. PM&R physicians manage issues that span the entire spectrum, from complicated multiple trauma to injury prevention for athletes.

What is Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation?

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FAQs About Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation(PM&R)

What conditions do you treat?

To become a PM&R physician, individuals must graduate from medical school followed by four additional years of postdoctoral training in a physical medicine and rehabilitation residency. This includes one year developing fundamental clinical skills and three additional years of training in the full scope of the specialty. There are currently 80 accredited residency programs in physical medicine and rehabilitation in the United States. Many PM&R physicians 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 musculoskeletal rehabilitation, pediatrics, pain, electrodiagnostic, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, and sports medicine.

To become board certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation, rehabilitation physicians are required to take both a written and oral examination administered by the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (ABPMR). The ABPMR 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. Additionally, Rehabilitation physicians can also obtain subspecialty certification in Brain Injury Medicine, Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Neuromuscular Medicine, Pain Medicine, Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine, Spinal Cord Injury Medicine, and/or Sports Medicine.​

What kind of training do you have?

How is PM&R different from other areas of medicine?

Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) physicians, also known as physiatrists, treat a wide variety of medical conditions affecting the brain, spinal cord, nerves, bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, and tendons. PM&R physicians evaluate and treat injuries, illnesses, and disability, and are experts in designing comprehensive, patient-centered treatment plans. Physiatrists utilize cutting‐edge as well as time‐tested treatments to maximize function and quality of life.