Physiatry focuses on the diagnosis, treatment, and management of issues of the bones, muscles and joints primarily using a wide variety of conservative treatments including physical therapy and medications.
Rehabilitation Medicine: Treating Pain, Restoring Function
Pain is the most common reason patients come to see Dedham Medical’s physiatrists that is, physical medicine and rehabilitation specialists concerned with musculoskeletal problems. But while the pain issue is important, it’s only a part of their concern.
“The major basis of our field is restoring function,” says Michael A. Marciello, MD. “We’ll work to deal with the pain, but our goal beyond that is to help patients sit or walk or use their hands in ways that treat or compensate for the problems underlying their pain or disability.”
Adds physiatrist Lorraine A. Gomba, MD, “It’s really about quality of life. If we can help patients achieve maximum self-sufficiency, then they have a chance to make their experience of life the best it can be.”
While the term musculoskeletal suggests physiatry’s close association with orthopedics, the physiatrists deal with issues as diverse as simple sprains, back pain, overuse problems like carpel tunnel syndrome, walking disorders and peripheral neuropathies, and the functional problems caused by stroke or multiple sclerosis.
Faced with such broad issues, physiatrists incorporate the knowledge bases of orthopedics, neurology, rheumatology, physical and occupational therapy, behavioral medicine and pain management, Dr. Marciello says.
“We may use the techniques of any of these specialties,” he says. “We may find it appropriate to give a patient a trigger point steroid injection to address a pain issue, or to prescribe a course of occupational therapy to treat a hand injury. But at bottom our goal is both the resolution of pain and the overall rehabilitation of the patient, the restoration of the ability to be as self- sufficient as possible.”
Physiatry first arose as a medical field in the 1930s and came into its own following World War II, when large numbers of injured war veterans needed rehabilitation. It was recognized as a medical specialty in 1947 and today there are some 80 accredited residency training programs in physiatry in the United States.
If pain isn’t the physiatrists’ only focus, it is the most frequent symptom that leads patients to them. Ninety percent of patients present with pain of some kind. And while back pain is a common issue, they’re concerned with all types of functionality problems, from as simple as sprains to as complicated as brain injuries and strokes.
To Make an Appointment
If you would like a consultation in physiatry, you can make an appointment by calling the main number at 781-329-1400 and asking for the Orthopedics / Physiatry Department.