Physiatry is an area of medicine focused on the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disorders related to the nerves, muscles, bones, and brain that may produce a temporary or permanent impairment. Physiatrists are doctors who have completed training in the medical specialty of physical medicine and rehabilitation. Their specialty areas include neurology, physical and occupational therapy, and pain management.

They focus on a wide range of disabilities, including long-term rehabilitation for

What physiatrists do

Physiatrists play an important role in treating illnesses or physical injuries that affect how you move. They aim to help you reduce your pain, get you moving again and enhance your body’s performance after an injury. They assess your condition and recovery from a broader perspective — looking at the whole body and focusing on taking the steps necessary to help get you back to normal.

Instead of focusing on one part of the body, a comprehensive treatment program centers around the process of putting a person’s life back together medically, socially, emotionally and vocationally after an injury or illness. Treatments can be performed by the patients themselves or with the help of a team of medical professionals, from speech pathologists to physical therapists.

When to see a physiatrist

Consider seeing a physiatrist if you:

  • Have had an accident, injury, or chronic condition that has left you with limited function or pain
  • Are having or recovering from surgery
  • Have an illness, or if treatment of an illness has reduced your energy or ability to move easily
  • Are suffering from the effects of a stroke or other problems related to nerve damage
  • Have chronic pain from arthritis, repetitive stress injury or neck and back problems
  • Think you are too old to exercise
  • Are experiencing life changes such as childbirth or menopause that have created new challenges to your physical functioning

Learn more about physiatry on our website.

Mustapha Kemal, MD

Dr. Mustapha Kemal is a physiatrist with Lifespan Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and medical director of the Vanderbilt Rehabilitation Center at Newport Hospital.