Orthopedic trauma is an unforeseen life-changing event. Sometimes it goes beyond fractures to nerves and muscles. Sometimes it’s genetic or a symptom of a disease. It may not be orthopedic at all. The results and the traumatic quality of life deviations may have psychological consequences but you don’t need a psychiatrist. You may need another medical specialist. Ever hear of a physiatrist?
Sometimes personal outcomes depend on the choices you make. Often, the menus are limited. In a reality of physical aches and pains that dishearten even the heartiest. There are often overlooked options. When it comes to bones, nerves, and muscle interactions, physiatry or PM&R are often overlooked as a therapeutic means for body aches, pains, and mobility issues.
In medicine, there are many specialists. Knowing the right specialist may mean a great deal as to how a problem is diagnosed and treated. For broken bones, you might seek out an orthopedist. For nerve pain, a neurologist may be fine. For foot aches, a podiatrist might have answers. Bones ache? Try a chiropractor. These are all disciplines for ache and pain therapy. The one specialty that is ignored is that of a physiatrist.
Physiatrist? You must mean psychiatrist! A Physiatrist is a physician who has trained in an accredited program in the specialty of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R), which established board certification in 1947. This specialty seeks to restore a person’s functional capacity to the fullest extent possible. The major divisions of the field are musculoskeletal medicine, inpatient rehabilitation, and electrodiagnosis (EMG).
One day I chanced upon meeting a veteran while waiting at a bus stop. Ironically, he returned home fine but was in a car accident that damaged his bones, muscles, and nerves in his ankle-foot joint, making it painful to stand and walk. He saw that I wore foot braces and I told him that they support my ankle and foot muscles to help me walk. He had been seeing a podiatrist routinely with no real help. I suggested he might be helped by a physiatrist and he thought I was talking about a psychiatrist. I advised that a physiatrist pays attention to the after-effects that deal with motion disorders.
Many people don’t realize that a physiatrist is very different from a psychiatrist. Most people do not know what a physiatrist is. A physiatrist is a medical doctor that specializes in movement disorders, often associated with diseases.
A physiatrist focuses and offers different perspectives on bones, nerves, and muscles than orthopedists, podiatrists, and chiropractors. Virtually unknown or not regarded by the other three, a physiatrist’s target of dealing with motion and interaction may deliver movement and freedom from pain to many of those people for whom movement can be insurmountable challenges.
Physiatrists focus on a personalized method of treatment to improve their patients’ quality of life — one that involves a comprehensive approach. The treatment is often a guided process. Using a physiatrist often points to multidisciplinary approaches in seeking to rehabilitate movement. Physiatrists are often associated with comprehensive rehabilitation team of professionals that may include physical therapists, occupational therapists, recreational therapists, rehabilitation nurses, orthotists and prosthetists, as well as psychologists and social workers.
Why are physiatrists generally confused with psychiatrists? Some people can’t read and more people don’t know. Many medical specialists do not recommend them. They are generally affiliated with hospitals that perform complex surgeries, such as the Hospital for Special Surgery, generally performing joint replacements. Keeping physiatrists a secret route of treatment by those medical specialists may disrupt proper healing and promote greater challenges for needy patients.
Fortunately, people do discover physiatrists through other means.
Physiatrists are generally found in hospitals but many have private practices. Simonetta Sambataro, MD, operates from a small office in Chelsea on West 23rd Street in New York. She is a physiatrist that specializes in recovery, and provides rehabilitation, physical therapy and other types of therapy that help patients learn to regain normal/near-normal function. Trained in Italy, she provides physiatry care to pediatric and adult patients.
Dr. Sambataro offers very practical guidance of a European style and has a stack of business cards for reference to supportive professionals. One of those, that fitted me with my leg and foot brace is David Zwicker, a rather experienced and understanding orthotist. He helps provide supportive devices for people from head-to-toe.
Many patients may benefit by seeing a physiatrist to alleviate many frustrating physical and motion challenges that other specialty doctors simply might ignore. When you have chronic pain and movement disorders, finding a physiatrist might be challenging. but there are about 8,000 practitioners in the United States. That’s half the number of podiatrists and about an eighth of the number of practicing orthopedists. A physiatrist is part of a very small group.
Going to a physiatrist usually means a non-operative, no-drug and no quick-fix solution. The methods used are process based. The patient must be self-motivated to get better. Sadly, such motivation is often brushed aside in this society and patients may be less inclined to pursue seeking a physiatrist. The results may be poor healing or lingering pains.
Those suffering with otherwise untreatable degenerative neuromuscular diseases, such as muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, and some stroke cases, may gain a little improvement by seeking out a physiatric approach. It may not be a miracle cure but may improve your general lifestyle.
It seems that physiatry is a much maligned, ignored medical discipline in the USA. When it comes to helping support your physical and emotional struggles with mobility challenges, a physiatrist may deliver more help than the more common medical disciplines dealing with nerves, muscles, and bones. Yet, physiatry often is perceived among the lowest levels in the treatment process and is often overlooked. Physiatry is a demanding medical specialty and a good physiatrist can be extremely helpful in the recovery process.
Mobility disorders are more than breaks, pulls, and sprains. From small to large, any shift from what you normally do can be traumatic. In those cases, your physiatrist may offer resources for a trauma services network that aids the process of healing and habilitating. Sometimes sharing helps boost your outlook.
Physiatry is physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R). The patient’s physical, functional, emotional, and psychosocial well-being are all considered in treatment. It may require more effort than swallowing pills but the positive outcomes may elevate your general mood when coping with movement challenges that affect your life and lifestyle choices. Physiatrists as medical rehabilitation specialists may help optimize patient outcomes and qualities of life by participating in strategies to help you cope throughout the process of reaching a better degree of wellness.
So when your muscles chronically ache, you may want to choose the aid of a physiatrist.