Understanding which medical professional, you should seek out can be a difficult decision, with so many sub-specialties in medicine. When you’re dealing with an injury involving bones, muscles, or joints (the musculoskeletal system), there are multiple doctors who may be suitable to help with these issues. While they may seem like similar fields, it is important to know the differences between a physiatrist and an orthopedist, so that you can make the right decision for your particular needs.
These are the physicians we most often turn to when it’s the musculoskeletal system that needs treatment. Both physiatrists and orthopedists treat similar conditions, mainly musculoskeletal injuries, but orthopedists have the additional training to provide surgery as a treatment option, whereas physiatrists do not perform surgery. Many orthopedists and physiatrists do work in the same office.
Problems to the support structure of the body are not just characterized by acute pain related to specific injuries, trauma, or disease, but also ongoing limitations to the functionality and abilities of the body part, and ongoing pain. The symptoms can make it difficult for a patient to fulfill the daily obligations of life, much less enjoy a high quality of life. Physical medicine and rehabilitation initiates therapy that is aimed at helping patients address the specific limitations related to their musculoskeletal problems so they regain functionality.
Patients may have a problem that respond to various different treatment plans, rather than one particular option. The task of these musculoskeletal specialists, is to find the most accurate and optimal treatment plan to improve patient outcomes.
What is a Physiatrist?
Physiatrists are specialists in physical medicine and rehabilitation. Their goal is to help a patient who has suffered from a musculoskeletal problem, for example, chronic neck and back pain or sports injuries, restore mobility and function. Physiatrists do not perform surgery, and believe in more traditional forms of treatment, including medication, occupational therapy, physical therapy, injections, and exercises.
Regardless of the condition, doctors who specialize in physical medicine and rehabilitation aim to create treatment plans tailored to their patients, to help them relieve pain, increase the strength and mobility to the affected area, and try to restore previous functionality or help them adapt and learn new ways, such as exercises to help them function, and be able to live their daily lives to the fullest.
Treatment options vary depending on the specific injury, trauma, disease or other issues affecting the patient. In some cases, a physiatrist will refer their patient to an orthopedic surgeon, if surgery seems like the best or only option.
What is an Orthopedist?
An orthopedic surgeon treats conditions impacting the musculoskeletal system and may specialize on a specific body part. Orthopedists do perform surgery, and also use various other treatments to alleviate pain.
Doctors usually want patients to avoid surgery, and turn to it as a last resort. Patients will generally try treatments prescribed by a physiatrist first, in order to avoid surgery. However, in the case the patient does not respond to these conventional treatments, and do not provide sufficient relief, your primary care doctor can then refer you to an orthopedic surgeon to evaluate your condition further, and determine whether you may be a candidate for surgery.
To learn more about the difference between and orthopedist and a physiatrist, call the Orthopaedic Associates of Central Maryland at (410) 644-1880, or request an appointment online.