Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R), also known as physiatry, is a medical specialty that involves the process of restoring function for a person who has been disabled as a result of a disease, disorder, or injury.
Physiatry provides integrated, multidisciplinary care aimed at recovery of the whole person by addressing the individual’s physical, emotional, medical, vocational, and social needs. A doctor who specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation is called a physiatrist.
Rehabilitation is the process of helping an individual achieve the highest level of function, independence, and quality of life possible. Rehabilitation does not reverse or undo the damage caused by disease or trauma, but rather helps restore the individual to optimal health, functioning, and well-being. Rehabilitate (from the Latin “habilitas”) means to make able.
To become a rehabilitation physician, individuals must graduate from medical school followed by four additional years of postdoctoral training in a physical medicine and rehabilitation residency. This includes one year developing fundamental clinical skills and three additional years of training in the full scope of the specialty. There are currently 80 accredited residency programs in physical medicine and rehabilitation in the United States. Many rehabilitation physicians choose to pursue additional advanced degrees (MS, PhD) or complete fellowship training in a specific area of the specialty. Fellowships are available for specialized study in such areas as musculoskeletal rehabilitation, pediatrics, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, and sports medicine.
To become board certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation, rehabilitation physicians are required to take both a written and oral examination administered by the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (ABPMR). The ABPMR also has agreements with each of the boards of pediatrics, internal medicine, and neurology to allow special training programs leading to certification in both specialties.
Rehabilitation physicians take the time needed to accurately pinpoint the source of an ailment. Their specific diagnostic tools are the same as those used by other physicians (medical histories, physical examinations, and imaging studies), with the addition of special techniques in electrodiagnostic medicine like electromyography (EMG), nerve conduction studies, and somatosensory evoked potentials. These techniques help the rehabilitation physician to diagnose conditions that cause pain, weakness, and numbness.
PM&R is often called the quality of life profession because of its aim is to enhance patient performance. These specialists treat any disability resulting from disease or injury involving any organ system. The focus is not on one part of the body, but instead on the development of a comprehensive program for putting the pieces of a person’s life back together – medically, socially, emotionally, and vocationally – after injury or disease. Rehabilitation physicians manage issues that span the entire spectrum, from complicated multiple trauma to injury prevention for athletes. Some rehabilitation physicians have broad-based practices that encompass many different types of patients. Others pursue special interests and focus on specific groups or problems. For example, sports medicine has grown as a special interest. Rehabilitation physicians who focus on sports medicine treat sports-related injuries, develop programs to help athletes avoid injury, and may do research in the field.
Source: http://healthsource.baylorhealth.com/Search/85,P01168, http://www.aapmr.org/patients/aboutpmr/pages/faqs.aspx