Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

250-5If you do not see answers to your questions below, feel free to give us a call at: 443-535-9900.

Q: How did the Physiatrist specialty develop?

A: The field of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (P.M.& R.) began in the 1930’s to address musculoskeletal and neurological problems.  It broadened in scope considerably after World War II.  As thousands of veterans came back home with serious disabilities, the task of helping to restore them to productive lives became a new direction for the field.  The Advisory board of Medical Specialties granted P.M.& R. it’s approval as a specialty of medicine in 1947.

Q: What types of conditions does a physiatrist treat?

A: Physiatrists treat a broad range of conditions.  The focus of the specialty is on restoring function to people.  Acute and chronic pain from musculoskeletal disorders and spinal problems are the most common conditions we treat.  A physiatrist may see a person who lifts a heavy object and experiences back pain, a basketball player who sprains an ankle and needs rehabilitation to play again or a knitter who develops carpal tunnel syndrome.  Physiatrists’ patients include people with arthritis, tendonitis, back and neck pain and work related and sports related injuries.

Q: How do physiatrists diagnose?

A: A physiatrist's diagnostic tools are the same as those used by other physicians, with the addition of a few specialized tests.  Physiatrists have extensive training in musculoskeletal anatomy and examination. They also use imaging including X-Ray, MRI, CT, musculoskeletal ultrasound and nerve conduction and electromyography (EMG).  These testing techniques help physiatrists to diagnose conditions that cause pain, weakness, numbness and impaired function.

Q: What kinds of treatments do physiatrists offer?

A: Physiatrists offer a broad spectrum of medical services.  They do not perform surgery.  The most important treatment is often education and prescription of the best exercises to help rehabilitate and resolve a painful condition.  An individualized physical therapy program is often used.  Physiatrists may prescribe medications, braces and orthotics as well.  Specific injection procedures are often utilized to alleviate pain (please see our page of definitions for various injection procedures).

Q: What kinds of differences do physiatrists make?

A: Physiatrists are concerned with restoring maximum functioning.  In the case of a herniated disc, the physiatrist not only takes care of the acute problem by managing the pain, but also treats the patient until they return to optimal functioning, usually without surgery.  The physiatrist also teaches the patient how to prevent the injury in the future. The physiatrist understands that not everyone with a disc injury has the same goals and activity levels and will work with you to develop a treatment plan that fits with your personal lifestyle.