Orthopedic Minute - What is Physiatry?


Hi, I'm Dr. Heidi Prather at Washington University Orthopedics. I'm a Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Specialist also known as a Physiatrist. I treat patients who have general conditions related to sports, spine and even just anything within the orthopedic world without surgery. Many of the patients that come to see me may have a constellation of symptoms that might need to be integrated whether that includes pain from their back that relates to their hip or maybe pain in their knee that relates to their ankle.

You may not have heard of a Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Specialist because we're quite a small specialty. There are about 7500 practicing Physiatrists across the United States. This practice of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation began as a specialty as a result of a physician recognizing that soldiers injured in war had specific needs after those injuries. As a result, you will find Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Specialists who will treat patients with head injuries, spinal cord injuries, amputees, stroke.

Since the late 1980s to early 1990s, more and more Physiatrists or Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Specialists have started to specialize in orthopedic care. As a result, there are many more practitioners that can offer care to the able-bodied population within orthopedic centers. Here at Washington University Orthopedics, there are Physiatry Attendings who work closely with the Surgical Attendings and are providing integrated care that spans across from the surgical and non-surgical spectrums. This is an optimal way to practice medicine as the patient is considered as a whole.

If you have a general orthopedic condition or maybe just a hurt that you're not quite sure where it's come from and it's impeding you from performing your activities of daily living, your sports or just generally feeling good, a Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Specialist might be helpful to you.

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