You have suffered an injury, or perhaps have just had surgery. Your doctor recommends you see a physiatrist for therapy. You ask him to repeat it. Still confused, you ask him to write it down for you. “But wait,” you demand. “Don’t you mean physical therapist?” Your doctor reiterates what he said. In all honesty, you admit you haven’t a clue what he is talking about. What is physiatry? What’s the difference between that and physical therapy? To help you out, here is a primer on physical therapy vs. physiatry.
To clarify, physical therapy is the use of physical methods such as massage, heat and exercise to treat physical injury. Physiatry is medical discipline that treats injury, disability and disease using exercise, massage, mechanical aids and various other physical methods. What’s the difference? Simply stated, a physiatrist practices physiatry, while a physical therapist practices physical therapy. The treatment methods are similar in some cases, as noted by their definitions, however, physiatry and physical therapy are two distinct branches of medicine/practices. Here it is again, spelled out in more detail.
The goal of physical therapy is to improve the patient’s quality of life by increasing their ability to function normally, without pain. The physical therapist plays an important role in healthcare, providing rehabilitation following injury or for a disability or illness. They do this by assisting and coaching patients through targeted movement in the areas where mobility needs improvement. Some methods of treatment physical therapists employ include massage and manipulation to treat musculoskeletal conditions, but they also treat other disorders that may stem from injuries incurred while playing sports, from accidents, post-surgery, or due to age or illness.
Physical therapists address neurological, musculoskeletal, and cardiothoracic conditions. These are classified as –
- Cardiothoracic treatment, for respiratory disorders to include asthma, chronic bronchitis, cardio-disorders and emphysema;
- Neurological treatment, for disorders related to the nervous system, and
- Musculoskeletal treatment, for conditions related to orthopedics including arthritis, injuries, back problems, etc.
Therapy is tailored to each patient’s specific and unique needs and no two treatment plans are alike. Patients can expect any number of treatments while under the care of a physical therapist, and may include manual therapies, strengthening exercises, or electrotherapy, which include transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, etc.
A physiatrist treats multiple conditions; some are musculoskeletal while others are not. As with physical therapy, a physiatrist may treat work- and sports-related injuries, but they’re also trained to treat chronic disorders, including orthopedic trauma. It is treating the chronic conditions and orthopedic trauma that offers the primary difference between a physical therapist and a physiatrist. Essentially and professionally speaking, a physiatrist is a medical doctor who is trained in rehabilitation. Physiatrist are trained to care for the medical issues a patient has and then to map out a treatment plan for rehabilitation, if warranted. At such a time that the treatment plan is in place, the physiatrist may refer the patient to a physical therapist, who will follow the plan that is prescribed. The physiatrist continues to monitor and manage the medical issues of the patient as he or she is rehabbing with the therapist.
At Suburban Physical Therapy, our licensed therapists are highly skilled and experienced to treat your condition. You may find an appointment form online or simply call us. Our Brecksville office number is 440-746-1730, and in Twinsburg you may reach us by calling 330-963-2920.Same day appointments are often available at Suburban Physical Therapy.