What is a Physiatrist?
A “physiatrist” may be part of your treatment team for back pain. This is a physician who has finished training in the specialty of physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R). He or she may also have further fellowship training in pain medicine including interventional injection treatments for pain. As a whole, physiatrists specialize in the treatment of acute or chronic muscle, skeletal, and/or neurological conditions designed to maximize long-term function and quality of life.
Together, with your other providers, your physiatrist may try various non-surgical treatment options when trying to treat your pain. These may include various medications, physical strengthening programs (such as through a physical therapist) or possibly injections (such as an epidural steroid injection).
Your initial evaluation would typically include obtaining a full history of the problem, discussing what you have tried already, what other medical problems you have, medications you are on or have tried before, as well as what treatments you have already done for the problem. The physician would then do a physical exam and review any imaging films you may have brought with you. Then, you and the physiatrist will discuss and determine a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs.
Your surgeon may ask you to see a physiatrist for treatment first. This may improve the pain without surgery; but if it doesn’t or if your condition worsens, then the surgeon remains an available part of the team to provide those options, when needed.