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What is a Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Physician?


If you’ve experienced back pain or some other injury in the past, you may have heard of a Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) physician also known as a Physiatrist.

Although some may call them Physical Therapists, they are not the same, nor do they perform the same work. Here are answers to some of the most common questions we receive about our Physiatrists or PM&R physicians.

What is a Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Physician?

A PM&R physician, also known as a physiatrist, is an MD who completed medical school and four additional years of residency training.

Because of their extensive medical training of the entire body, they can treat a wide range of physical conditions that affect the brain, nervous system, joints, ligaments, muscles, tendons, and spinal cord.

Their main goal is to assess the patient’s ailments, medical history, and limitations, make a diagnosis, and prescribe a treatment plan to improve the patient’s overall quality of life.

Who Can PM&R Physicians Treat?

Since PM&R physicians develop specific treatments plans that can be altered over time based on the patient’s ever-changing needs, they can treat all walks of life from infants to the elderly.

How Do They Differ from Physical Therapists?

PM&R physicians are the specialists that patients go to first. They have the medical expertise to:

  1. Look at the patient’s symptoms.
  2. Pinpoint certain causes for their symptoms.
  3. Consider the patient’s medical history that may counteract a certain treatment option.
  4. Come up with a therapy plan to treat the patient’s pain without unnecessary surgical procedures.

A common misconception is that the PM&R physician performs the therapy, which is why people mistake them for physical therapists.

Once the PM&R physician finalizes and prescribes a treatment plan, the patient will then visit a physical therapist, who will actually lead the various therapy sessions.

Do PM&R Physicians and Physical Therapists Work Together?

Absolutely! Through regular collaboration and communication, PM&R physicians and physical treatments work together extensively to ensure the patient’s therapy plan is a success and their quality of life has improved.

Their relationship is a continuous cycle:

  1. PM&R physician prescribes the treatment plan to the patient.
  2. Physical therapist works through the treatment with the patient.
  3. Physical therapist and patient give the PM&R physician feedback on their progress, or if necessary, introduce a new medical ailment.
  4. PM&R physician revises the patient’s treatment plan.

From there, steps 2 through 4 continue until for as long as the patient needs the physical therapy.

Does Spine Team Texas Have PM&R Physicians on Staff?

At Spine Team Texas, we have over 10 PM&R physicians on staff. What sets us apart from our competition is our full range of back pain doctors and specialists and staff under one roof.

Our PM&R physicians are part of each client’s care management team, who all work together to ensure our patients’ pain management success.

We Can Help!
If you are experiencing back pain, please schedule an appointment with us. We’ll help you get back to a pain-free life!