Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Physiatrist Definition:

A medical doctor, muscle and bone specialist, who diagnoses and treats disorders that may produce temporary or permanent impairment.

Related Terms: Arthritis

Also referred to as rehabilitation physician.

In Cayton v. Moore, Justice Lang of the Court of Appeals of Texas adopted these words:

"A physiatrist is a physician specializing in physiatry or physical medicine and rehabilitation. Physical medicine and rehabilitation is the branch of medicine emphasizing the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of disorders that may produce temporary or permanent impairment. Physical medicine and rehabilitation provides integrated care in the treatment of all neurologic and musculoskeletal disabilities from traumatic brain injury to lower back pain. Physiatrists often serve as the leader of an interdisciplinary team. That team may include medical professionals such as neurologists. The team is different for each patient and the team's composition changes during treatment to match the patient's shifting needs."

In Brown v Saskatchewan, Justice Gerein of the Saskatchewan Court of Queen's Bench wrote:

"(A) physiatrist is a physician who through training has attained the designation of specialist. Such a person diagnoses and treats certain physical disorders within the human body. These include neurological and musculoskeletal disabilities along with acute and chronic pain. These are the very things which follow upon physical injuries."

According to the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation as of August 8, 2012:

"A physiatrist, or rehabilitation physician, is a medical doctor who has also completed residency training in the medical specialty of physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R). This physician is a nerve, muscle, bone and brain expert who diagnoses and treats injuries or illnesses that affect how you move. The physiatric approach to patient care looks at the whole person and not just one symptom or condition. Rehabilitation physicians do not perform surgery....

"Rehabilitation physicians take the time needed to accurately pinpoint the source of an ailment. They then design a treatment plan that can be carried out by the patients themselves or with the help of the rehabilitation physician’s medical team. This medical team might include other physicians and health professionals, such as neurologists, orthopedic surgeons, and physical therapists. By providing an appropriate treatment plan, rehabilitation physicians help patients stay as active as possible at any age."

The Canadian peer organization (Canadian Association of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation) defers to the definition put forward by the Association of Academic Physiatrists, as follows:

"Physiatrists are physicians who specialize in physical medicine and rehabilitation, a medical specialty that deals with the evaluation and treatment of patients whose functional abilities have been impaired. The disabilities and impairments may result from injuries or diseases such as stroke, neuromuscular disorders, musculoskeletal disorders, cardiopulmonary diseases, arthritis, peripheral vascular disease, cerebral palsy and others.

"The physiatrist can help to improve a person's functional capabilities by medical treatment and organizing and integrating a program of rehabilitation therapy such as physical, occupational, speech therapies, psychological, social nursing, prosthetic, orthotic, engineering and vocational services."1

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