Dr. Jerry Sobel at Sobel Spine and Sports located in Phoenix is a physiatrist (fiz-ee-a-trist), or Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation physician.
What is Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation?
Physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R), also known as physiatry or rehabilitation medicine, aims to enhance and restore functional ability and quality of life to those with physical impairments or disabilities affecting the brain, spinal cord, nerves, bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, and tendons. A physician having completed training in this field is referred to as a physiatrist. Unlike other medical specialties that focus on a medical “cure,” the goals of the physiatrist are to maximize patients’ independence in activities of daily living and improve quality of life.
Physiatrists are experts in designing comprehensive, patient-centered treatment plans, and are integral members of the care team. They utilize cutting-edge as well as time-tested treatments to maximize function and quality of life for their patients, who can range in age from infants to octogenarians.
PM&R physicians practice in a variety of clinical settings, including inpatient and outpatient facilities. They have a broad range of knowledge including musculoskeletal, neurological, rheumatological and cardiovascular systems.
Some of the common diagnoses and populations seen by inpatient physiatrists include spinal cord injury, brain injury (traumatic and non-traumatic), stroke, multiple sclerosis, polio, burn care, and musculoskeletal and pediatric rehabilitation. Inpatient physiatrists are often trained using collaborative team skills and work with social workers and other allied health therapists (e.g., physical, occupational and speech) to manage these issues.
Outpatient physiatrists manage nonsurgical conditions including orthopaedic injuries, spine-related pain and dysfunction, occupational injuries and overuse syndromes, neurogenic bowel/bladder, pressure sore management, spasticity management, and chronic pain. Outpatient physiatrists are typically found in multidisciplinary groups consisting of other physiatrists, orthopaedic surgeons and/or neurosurgeons.
More About Physiatry
Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) physicians, also known as physiatrists, treat a wide variety of medical conditions affecting the brain, spinal cord, nerves, bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, and tendons.
PM&R physicians are medical doctors who have completed training in the specialty of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R), and may be subspecialty certified in Brain Injury Medicine, Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Neuromuscular Medicine, Pain Medicine, Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine, Spinal Cord Injury Medicine, and/or Sports Medicine.
Specifically, PM&R physicians:
- Treat patients of all ages
- Focus treatment on function
- Have a broad medical expertise that allows them to treat disabling conditions throughout a person’s lifetime
- Diagnose and treat pain as a result of an injury, illness, or disabling condition
- Determine and lead a treatment/prevention plan
- Lead a team of medical professionals, which may include physical therapists, occupational therapists, and physician extenders to optimize patient care
- Work with other physicians, which may include primary care physicians, neurologists, orthopedic surgeons, and many others.
- Treat the whole person, not just the problem area
Depending on the injury, illness, or disabling condition, some PM&R physicians may treat their patients using the following procedures/services:
- EMG/Nerve Conduction Studies
- Ultrasound guided procedures
- Fluoroscopy guided procedures
- Injections of spine
- Discography, Disc Decompression and Vertebroplasy/Kyphoplasty
- Nerve Stimulators, Blocks and Ablation procedures—Peripheral and Spinal
- Injections of joints
- Spasticity Treatment (Phenol and Botulinum toxin injections, intrathecal baclofen pump trial and implants)
- Nerve and Muscle Biopsy
- Manual Medicine/Osteopathic Treatment
- Prosthetics and Orthotics
- Complementary-alternative medicine (i.e. acupuncture, etc.)
- Disability/impairment assessment
- Medicolegal consulting
Why Visit a PM&R Physician
Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) physicians, also known as physiatrists, treat a wide variety of medical conditions affecting the brain, spinal cord, nerves, bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, and tendons. By taking the whole body into account, they are able to accurately pinpoint problems and enhance performance without surgery.
Consider seeing a PM&R physician if:
- You had an accident or you have an injury or chronic condition that has left you with pain or limited function
- You’re contemplating or recovering from surgery
- You have an illness or treatment for an illness that has diminished your energy or ability to move easily
- You’re recovering from the effects of a stroke or other problems related to nerve damage
- You have chronic pain from arthritis, a repetitive stress injury, or back problems
- Excess weight makes it difficult to exercise or has caused health problems
- You think you’re too old to exercise
- Life changes such as childbirth or menopause have created new challenges to your physical function
A PM&R physician will thoroughly assess your condition, needs, and expectations and rule out any serious medical illnesses to develop a treatment plan. A clear understanding of your condition and limitations will help you and your PM&R physician to develop a treatment plan suited to your unique needs.
Tailoring your plan
You need the right type of exercise to effectively overcome fitness obstacles. A runner may have gained weight after being sidelined by a knee injury. A PM&R physician can prescribe tailored, low-impact activities that burn calories without aggravating the injury, simultaneously prescribing physical therapy and use of a brace to strengthen and support the knee. Another patient may be suffering from chronic neck pain. The PM&R physician might prescribe medication, stretching, and massage for short-term pain relief, as well as strengthening exercises to prevent future pain. If surgery is a necessity, PM&R physicians work with patients and their surgeons before and after surgery. By directing your treatment team and collaborating with other health care professionals, a PM&R physician is able to specially design a treatment program tailored to you.
Understanding and identifying your goals
Do you want to strengthen an injured muscle, find relief from chronic pain, or walk up the stairs without being winded? A PM&R physician can work with you to determine realistic short- and long-term goals. Along the way, he or she will help you to find relief from pain, achieve successes in rehabilitation or exercise programs, overcome your setbacks, and reassess your goals if necessary.