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What is Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation?

”Rehabilitation is the process of helping a person to reach the fullest physical, psychological, social, vocational, avocational, and educational potential consistent with his or her physiologic or anatomic impairment, environmental limitations, and desires and life plans.” (Rehabilitation Medicine, Principles and Practice, 3rd Ed. 1998).

PM&R physicians are sometimes referred to as ‘physiatrists’. The American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (AAPM&R) is the national medical society representing more than 6,400 physicians who are specialists in the field of PM&R.

To become a PM&R physician, individuals must successfully complete four years of graduate medical education (M.D.) and four additional years of postdoctoral residency training. Residency training includes one internship year spent developing fundamental clinical skills and three additional years of training in the full scope of the specialty.

There are 80 accredited residency programs in physical medicine and rehabilitation in the United States. Many PM&R physicians complete fellowship training in a specific area of the specialty. Fellowships are available for specialized study in such areas as sports medicine, musculoskeletal rehabilitation, pediatrics, traumatic brain injury, and spinal cord injury.

To become board-certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation, PM&R physicians are required to pass both a written and oral examination administered by the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (ABPM&R).

PM&R physicians treat acute and chronic pain and musculoskeletal disorders. PM&R physicians focus on restoring function. 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 knitter who has carpal tunnel syndrome. Our patients include people with arthritis, tendonitis, any kind of back pain, and work or sports related injuries.

PM&R physicians also treat serious neurologic & musculoskeletal disorders that result in severe functional limitations. We would treat a baby with a birth defect, someone in a bad car accident, or an elderly person with a broken hip. Physiatrists coordinate the long-term rehabilitation process for patients with spinal cord injuries, cancer, stroke, brain injuries, amputations, and multiple sclerosis.

When a patient is hospitalized in a rehabilitation hospital such as our world-famous KFRC-Rehabilitation Center in Kaiser-Vallejo, a Physiatrist is the primary doctor. The doctor is the quarterback of the rehab team in which the patient and their family are the center. Many providers are part of the team: physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, rehab nurses, social workers, psychologists and recreational therapists.

When a patient returns home and to their community, a local physiatrist like myself sometimes is involved in their care. It depends on the individual needs of the patient and the problem. Whatever exercise program, stretching, range of motion, aerobic and strengthening that has been instructed to you needs to be continued. With a disability unless instructed otherwise, ”if you do not use it, you will lose it.”

Post Polio Syndrome