Close up image of a Physiotherapist's hands working on the back of a seated patient wearing a blue shirt

How Can a Physiatrist Help Me with my Pain or Injury?

Physiatry, also known as Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R), is a medical specialty that focuses on restoring and enhancing functional ability and quality of life for individuals with pain or injury related to the spine and musculoskeletal system, and other diagnoses affecting the nerves, muscles, and bones.

The field of Physiatry has its roots in the early 20th century when the need for rehabilitation services for injured soldiers and civilians became increasingly evident. Over the years, the field has evolved to encompass a wide range of conditions and innovative treatment approaches, with a strong emphasis on improving function and overall well-being. 

Some Physiatrists, like the ones at Desert Spine and Sports Physicians, are further specialized with Fellowship training in Interventional Spine and Musculoskeletal Medicine.

The Role of a Physiatrist in Pain Management and Rehabilitation

Physiatrists play a crucial role in the non-operative management of pain or injury related to the spine and musculoskeletal system. They are experts in diagnosing and treating a wide range of pain syndromes, from back and neck pain to arthritis, tendonitis, and sports injuries.

One of the key strengths of Physiatrists is their holistic approach to patient care. Rather than focusing solely on treating the symptoms, they aim to understand the underlying causes of pain and reduced function, taking into account the patient’s medical history, lifestyle, and personal goals. At Desert Spine and Sports Physicians, our board-certified Physiatrists in Arizona believe strongly in this holistic approach — with an emphasis on nonsurgical treatments, we provide care that enhances healing and overall wellness.

Types of Conditions Treated by Physiatrists

Physiatrists treat a diverse range of conditions, including:

  • Back and neck pain: Physiatrists help manage acute and chronic spine pain through a combination of non-operative therapies, such as physical therapy, interventional procedures with fluoroscopic-guidance like epidural injections and non-opiate medications.
  • Arthritis and Tendonitis: Physiatrists play a vital role in the rehabilitation of active individuals with musculoskeletal pain with treatments including physical therapy, ultrasound-guided injections, and regenerative therapy with PRP or prolotherapy.
  • Sports injuries: From sprains and strains to more severe injuries like torn ligaments or tendons, Physiatrists work closely with athletes and weekend warriors to facilitate recovery and prevent future injuries.

How Physiatrists Diagnose and Treat

To diagnose and manage pain or injury, Physiatrists employ a multidisciplinary approach that is designed to target the source of the pain and prevent it from recurring for relief that lasts.  In addition to performing comprehensive musculoskeletal and neurological examinations, Physiatrists are also specialists in performing electrodiagnostic (EMG) testing which assists in the evaluation of nerve and muscle pathology. 

Common treatments that Physiatrists perform include:

  • Physical therapy: Physiatrists focus on tailoring physical therapy to each patient’s diagnosis and unique biomechanical deficits. Physical therapy aims to reduce pain, improve motion, and strengthen muscles through hands-on techniques and exercises.
  • Fluoroscopically-guided spine injections: A minimally invasive procedure that uses real-time X-ray guidance to deliver precise injections of medications into the spine for the treatment of back and neck pain and related conditions.
  • Fluoroscopically-guided joint injections: A minimally invasive procedure that uses real-time X-ray guidance to deliver precise injections of medications into joints, such as the knee, shoulder, or hip, for the treatment of joint pain and inflammation.
  • Ultrasound-guided tendon, joint, and musculoskeletal injections: A minimally invasive procedure that uses ultrasound imaging to guide the precise injection of medications or other substances into tendons, joints, and musculoskeletal structures for the treatment of pain and injury.
  • Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy: A regenerative treatment that involves injecting a concentrated solution of a patient’s own platelets into an injured tendon or arthritic joint to promote healing, reduce pain, and improve function.
  • Prolotherapy: A regenerative injection treatment that involves injecting a solution into damaged or weakened ligaments, tendons, or joints to stimulate the body’s natural healing process and promote tissue repair and stability.

What to Expect When Seeing a Physiatrist

During your visit, expect a comprehensive assessment of your condition. The doctor will gather detailed information about your symptoms, medical history, and any previous treatments or therapies you’ve undergone. They will assess your range of motion, strength, and functional abilities. Depending on your condition, the physiatrist may order diagnostic tests such as X-rays and MRI scans, or perform EMG studies.

Based on the findings from this assessment, the Physiatrist will develop a personalized treatment plan tailored to your specific needs. The goal is to help you achieve sustainable pain relief and functional gains while minimizing the need for invasive procedures or surgery.

The Benefits of Working with a Physiatrist

One of the primary benefits of working with Physiatrists like the ones at Desert Spine and Sports Physicians is the focus on treating the whole person, not just the symptoms. Physiatrists take a holistic approach to patient care, considering not only your physical condition but also your overall quality of life.

Physiatrists are committed to patient education and empowerment, ensuring that you understand your condition and are actively involved in your recovery process. By providing you with the knowledge and tools necessary to manage your condition, they help you achieve sustainable results and maintain a healthy, active lifestyle.

Curious how Physiatry has improved patients’ lives? Watch these moving testimonials from patients who’ve received life-changing treatment from Desert Spine and Sports Physicians.

Integrating Physiatry into Your Healthcare Plan

If you are experiencing pain or functional limitation from a spine or musculoskeletal injury, considering the integration of Physiatry into your healthcare plan can be a valuable decision. You’ll benefit from a comprehensive, personalized approach to managing your pain, improving your function, and ultimately improving your overall quality of life.

Our compassionate team of Physiatrists at Desert Spine and Sports Physicians is here to guide patients on their journey to discovering how Physiatry can enhance healing. For exceptional pain management in Arizona, visit one of our comprehensive spine, sports, and musculoskeletal clinics located across the Valley.