When you’re dealing with an injury involving bones, muscles, or joints, the first healthcare professionals who probably come to mind are orthopedic surgeons or sports medicine doctors. These are the physicians we most often turn to when it’s the musculoskeletal system that needs treatment.

But there’s another type of doctor, called a physiatrist, who is just as dedicated to problems of the muscles, bones, and joints, and who just might play an important role in your recovery from a sports injury or other musculoskeletal problems.

Dr. Vashi is our Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation specialist, who is also Board Certified in Sports Medicine.  This blog will explain what physiatrists do, what they treat, and what role they play in your continuum of care.

What does a physiatrist do?

Physiatrists, or rehabilitation physicians, are doctors who specialize in nonoperative physical medicine, meaning treatment of musculoskeletal problems, involving muscles, bones, joints, tendons, ligaments, and nerves, without the use of surgery. Their ultimate goal is to restore your function, mobility, and quality of life. They diagnose and treat physical injuries and disabilities through a wide variety of methods, from overseeing medications and physical therapy programs to nerve conduction testing and electromyography. They are also able to perform minimally invasive procedures to restore mobility and function, such as fluoroscopic guided epidural injections and ultrasound guided injections of the joints, tendons and ligaments.

Physiatrists focus on highly personalized and comprehensive treatments, which extend beyond the care they provide to you one-on-one. In fact, a physiatrist’s role involves directing your whole treatment and rehabilitation team, including physical therapists, occupational therapists, and other physicians and health professionals.

What conditions does a physiatrist treat?

Physiatrists treat a wide scope of conditions, ranging from sports injuries to spinal cord injuries and patients who have suffered from a stroke or severe burns, just to name a few.

At Comprehensive Orthopaedics, Dr. Vashi specifically focuses on nonoperative treatment for spine and sports injuries, along with other musculoskeletal problems throughout an adult’s lifetime. Some of the conditions and areas we treat include:

  • Acute and chronic joint pain
  • Acute and chronic back pain
  • Running injuries and other sports injuries
  • Tendonitis/tendinopathy
  • Degenerative joint conditions such as osteoarthritis
  • Tennis elbow, golfers elbow, rotator cuff problems and other overuse injuries
  • Nerve entrapments, such as carpal tunnel or cubital tunnel syndromes

What role does a physiatrist play in my treatment & recovery?

There are a number of ways in which a physiatrist plays a part in treatment and recovery from sports, musculoskeletal and spine-related injuries or disorders. After a comprehensive evaluation, a physiatrist will create a custom, nonoperative treatment plan tailored to your unique needs. This often includes identifying and managing outside therapy and/or rehabilitation programs such as physical therapy and occupational therapy. It also includes prescribing and overseeing medications and supporting devices like orthotics, if they will be beneficial.

A physiatrist can also perform a wide range of minimally invasive procedures that help relieve pain and restore function and mobility – all without the need for surgery. This includes nonoperative treatments such as:

  • Joint and bursa injections
  • Ultrasound guided injections of the tendons and ligaments
  • Fluoroscopic or X-ray guided epidural injections
  • Facet joint injections, medial branch blocks, and radiofrequency denervation for back and neck pain
  • Sacroiliac joint injections
  • Prolotherapy, platelet-rich plasma (PRP), and stem cell (bone marrow aspirate concentrate, or BMAC) therapy
  • Trigger point injections to relieve musculoskeletal pain

A physiatrist can play a major role in helping to restore both your function and mobility when you’ve suffered from a sports injury or are dealing with an orthopedic condition. Physiatry places an emphasis on non-surgical physical medicine and rehabilitation that’s personalized to you and your unique needs.

If you’re facing a potential surgery for a musculoskeletal problem, a consultation with a physiatrist might be worth exploring. Get started by making an appointment at Comprehensive Orthopaedics today to learn more about what non-surgical treatment methods are available.