Physical medicine and rehabilitation is often referred to as physiatry. Physiatry is the branch of medicine emphasizing the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of disorders, particularly those of the neuromusculoskeletal, cardiovascular, and pulmonary systems, which may produce temporary or permanent impairment.
Physiatry is unique among medical fields in that its area of expertise is the functioning of the whole patient, as compared with a focus on an organ system or systems. The doctors who practice it, called physiatrists, are nerve, muscle, spine and brain experts who treat injury or illness without surgery to decrease pain and restore function. The goal of the physiatrist is to provide medical care to patients with pain, weakness, numbness, and loss of function, so that they can maximize their physical, psychological, social, and vocational potential.
Their broad expertise and training enable them to treat a wide range of illnesses and injuries—from diagnosis to treatment and rehabilitation—throughout your lifetime. Physical rehabilitation doctors treat you, not just your symptoms. They take the time to understand your ailments and explain treatments you can do for yourself and with medical specialists.
If surgery is necessary, rehabilitation doctors work with you and your surgeons before and after surgery. They coordinate care between other health care professionals, including surgeons and therapists.