What is a Physiatrist?


A physiatrist is a physician specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation. Physiatrists treat a wide range of problems from sore shoulders to spinal cord injuries. They see patients in all age groups and treat problems that touch upon all the major systems in the body. Physiatrists approach patient care from a conservative, non-surgical perspective with the goal of restoring function.

The medical specialty of physical medicine and rehabilitation is approximately 50 years old. Today there are over 7,500 physicians in the U.S. practicing in this medical field. To become a physiatrist, one must complete four years of medical school and four years of residency training. All of the physiatrists at Washington University have received sub-specialty training in musculoskeletal medicine beyond residency.

Treatment Approach

Physiatrists treat acute and chronic pain, musculoskeletal disorders and offer an aggressive non-surgical approach to a wide variety of disorders and injuries. They may see a person who lifts a heavy object at work and experiences back pain, a basketball player who sprains an ankle and needs rehabilitation to play again, or a typist who has carpal tunnel syndrome. Physiatrists’ patients include people with arthritis, tendonitis, any kind of back pain, and work or sports-related injuries.

The physiatrists at Washington University Orthopedics focus on disorders of the spine and musculoskeletal system. We offer advanced specialty care in clinics dedicated to foot and ankle problems, spine, women’s health, and performing artists. The physiatrists are uniquely integrated with the surgeons and regularly attend specialty conferences to discuss care with the shoulder service, foot and ankle service, hip service and sports medicine service. As a result, patient care can be integrated between physicians and ease of access improved.

To learn more about our physiatrists, click here for a complete physician listing.

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