When the pain in your hip or your knee from that old sports injury is getting worse, you might worry that the doctor will recommend surgery. But many people don’t realize that most often musculoskeletal pain can be treated without surgery. In fact, the best specialist to see may be a physiatrist, a physician who specializes in nonsurgical musculoskeletal care.
Physiatrists, also known as physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R) specialists, are doctors who have completed many years of advanced training including medical school, residency, and, frequently, fellowship training—to specialize in areas such as interventional spine and sports medicine. Treating the person, not just the problem, is central to the care they provide. So, in addition to asking about your particular problem, a physiatrist may ask about your related medical, daily lifestyle, and occupational needs, and ergonomics.
“Physiatry is an extensive multifaceted field with many sub-specialties, but really the end goal is all the same—it’s to promote independence, maximize function, and enhance quality of life,” says Eric K. Holder, MD, a physiatrist who specializes in musculoskeletal medicine and spine care.
“I see patients in all age ranges from the young adult years well into the geriatric years," Dr. Holder says. "Our goal is to provide evidence-based, comprehensive nonsurgical musculoskeletal care. To do this, we listen to our patients’ stories and functional goals, as well as perform thorough examinations in order to make an appropriate diagnosis. Then, we partner with our patients to formulate treat plans to help them reach their goals.”