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What is a Doctor of Physical Medicine?

The field of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation is a specialty with a main focus on the diagnosis, prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation of physical injuries, illnesses, or conditions related to the brain, nerves, bones, and muscles. A Doctor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) is a physician, also called a physiatrist, who specializes in this field and has a deep understanding of musculoskeletal function, and musculoskeletal and neuromuscular disorders, according to the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (AAPM&R) organization. 

PM&Rs are trained in a wide range of treatments, including acupuncture, electromyography (EMG), prolotherapy, physical therapy, genicular radiofrequency ablation, and in some cases, sports or brain injury medicine. As such, PM&Rs can treat a variety of conditions, from neck and back pain to nerves, bones, tendons, chronic pain, and sports-related injuries. They also work with patients on their physical rehabilitation and help them maintain and improve their overall health, well-being, and independence. 

At Rocky Mountain Spine & Sport, we believe in the body’s innate capacity for healing and regeneration. We provide our patients with the tools they need to help improve body function and live a pain-free life. 

With our expertise, we are able to provide excellent patient care and help improve the quality of life for those with physical impairments. In this article, we’ll take a further look into the education and training to become a board-certified PM&R, the various treatment procedures we offer, and who we can help with our expertise.

Education and Training of a Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Physician

To become a Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation physician, individuals receive extensive education and real-life training to become board certified. It starts with completing a bachelor’s degree program and getting accepted into medical school. Once individuals graduate from medical school to receive an M.D. (medical doctor) degree, they start their residency program to complete four additional years of postdoctoral training in the physical medicine and rehabilitation field. 

During the residency program, physicians receive training to assess and treat patients with physical conditions or impairments. Some physicians also go through a subspecialty to become certified in other areas, such as Brain Injury Medicine, Neuromuscular Medicine, Spinal Cord Injury Medicine, or Sports Medicine. When the residency ends, physicians must complete and pass a board certification exam to practice medicine in this field. Overall, it is an extensive 12 years of education and real-life training to become board certified to treat patients.

What about Rehabilitation?

When a patient goes through a physical trauma or injury that causes physical impairment, a PM&R may use rehabilitation as part of the treatment process. Rehabilitation is highly individualized as each patient's case is unique. The rehabilitation process aims for patients to reach a high level of function and independence that helps them live a better quality of life. 

Rehabilitation may include treating diseases to prevent complications, treating a disability to improve function, or providing adaptive tools to their home environment to help patients become more independent. For example, if a patient requires rehabilitation for hand and wrist pain, they may go through physical therapy as part of the treatment. 

Types of Treatment Procedures

Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation physicians can treat a variety of conditions in different areas of the body, such as hand and wrist, foot and ankle, elbow, shoulder, hip, knees, headaches, and the spine. During a visit with a PM&R, the physician evaluates to determine the cause of pain or discomfort for a patient with a disability to diagnose and treat accordingly. A disability, in this case, refers to when a patient cannot perform a series of activities normally due to a physical impairment. 

Some medical conditions PM&Rs can diagnose include cognitive problems, mobility concerns due to joint pain, and physical pain or muscle stiffness due to inflammation or trauma. At Rocky Mountain Spine and Sport, we provide various treatment options depending on the diagnosis and work with specialists when needed, such as a physical therapist. Some of the treatment options include the following:

  • Acupuncture: we insert fine, thin needles through the skin at strategic points to help alleviate pain due to sports injuries.
  • Botox: helps reduce and treat headaches and migraines.
  • Electromyography (EMG): small electric shots are performed to determine the body’s electrical nerve signals to help with numbness and tingling.
  • Prolotherapy: it stimulates the body’s healing process and helps with weak joints, tendons, and ligaments.
  • Sphenocath: a device used to administer and deliver medication to the patient to provide pain relief.
  • Tenex: it is a tool to complete a percutaneous tenotomy procedure used for patients suffering from pain due to chronic tendon damage. 
  • Physical therapy: involves a series of different treatments depending on the diagnosis, such as massage, heat treatment, and a series of exercises to help with the healing or improvement of a specific part of the body.
  • Weight management: we help create a personalized plan to help alleviate some pre-existing conditions, such as high blood pressure, cholesterol, and back, hip, or knee pain.
  • Genicular radiofrequency ablation: it is a method used to treat and relieve chronic knee pain.
  • Peripheral joint injections: these injections are administered in the joints to help treat joint pain and inflammation and help improve mobility.
  • Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) treatment: this is a treatment for athletes to help in recovery due to injuries to the bones, tendons, or ligaments.

Our office also offers spine treatment options, including facet injections, medial branch blocks, spinal cord stimulators, radiofrequency ablation, epidural steroid injections, and sacroiliac (SI) joint injections. 

Contact our Rocky Mountain Spine and Sports offices for more information about our treatment options and how we can help.

Benefits of Visiting a PM&R and Who They Help

Paying a visit to a PM&R comes with multiple benefits as they treat a wide variety of conditions affecting the function of the body, including the brain, spinal cord, nerves, joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. According to the AAPM&R organization, PM&Rs can help the following patients:

  • Those who were left with a physical injury or trauma due to an accident that limits their body function.
  • Those who are looking for alternatives to costly surgeries.
  • Those suffering from a disease or illness leading to cognitive issues, muscle or nerve damage, chronic pain, or sport-related injuries.
  • Those who need assistance when recovering from nerve damage.
  • Those suffering from chronic pain due to arthritis, stress injury, or spine/back problems.
  • Those who need assistance with weight management and exercise plans.
  • Those who are athletes and received a sport-related injury.

A PM&R physician will assess each condition for a patient and identify short and long-term goals for patients to tailor a treatment and rehabilitation plan to relieve pain and improve body functions.

Make an Appointment for a Consultation

Finding a PM&R specialist is relatively easy and can be done in a variety of ways. You can start by asking your general physician if they can recommend a PM&R close to your location. You can also visit your state’s medical board website to find a list of PM&Rs in your area or search online directories of PM&Rs, such as the American Society of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation website. Lastly, you can contact your insurance provider to find out if they have a list or directory of PM&Rs covered by your insurance. 

If you are in the Idaho Falls or Rexburg, Idaho area, consider paying our Rocky Mountain Spine and Sport office a visit. During a scheduled appointment, we will proceed to do a consultation for your particular physical needs by completing a physical exam and looking at your medical history to better diagnose and create a treatment plan. You can complete our online form or call us today at (208) 535-4343 to schedule your appointment.

Driggs Location

Coming Soon!

Rocky Mountain Spine & Sport is proud to soon be serving patients in Teton Valley and the Jackson Hole area. Check our website for updates on when the Driggs location is officially open.