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December 11, 2018
What is a Physiatrist?

While physiatry isn’t a new medical specialty, it is one lesser known in the healthcare world when you compare it to, say, oncology, dermatology or cardiology.

The concept of physiatry, or physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R), has been around since the 1930s, thanks to pioneer Dr. Frank Krusen.1

Physiatrists are medically-trained physicians who combine a variety of specialty services to help provide coordinated care for a patient. While most commonly seen for brain, spinal cord and sports medicine injury or other chronic disorders, physiatrists can also treat individuals with neuromuscular conditions, palliative needs and muscular degeneration.

In a short sentence, think of a physiatrist as a rehab specialist with the goal of optimizing function.

PM&R can be done in an outpatient or inpatient setting. An inpatient physiatrist generally concentrates on the rehabilitation aspect of a patient’s needs, including those suffering from disease progression, post-stroke patients, or those with extreme disability and impairment.

Outpatient physiatrists typically sees patients with musculoskeletal, neuromuscular or orthopedic impairments.  PM&R doctors are often compared to non-surgical orthopedic physicians, or pain management physicians.

So what’s the difference?

Pain Management and orthopedics are really a subspecialty of PM&R medicine. PM&R is more of a multidisciplinary, global approach that can include physical therapy, pain management, orthopedics, neurology and rheumatology.

Many physiatrists are trained to perform pain management techniques such as injections into the spine, muscles or joints. Additional techniques and recommendations typically include physical therapy, medications, osteopathic techniques like facilitated positional releases, and alternative therapy (like acupuncture), among others.

Dr. Sean Stevenson received his medical degree from the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine and B.S. in Exercise Science from UMASS Amherst.  He joins Harrington Physician Services as a physiatrist and PM&R specialist. His office is located at 100 South St., Southbridge, Medical Arts Suite 108. For an appointment or more information: 508-909-8590.