When a lot of people think of physical therapy, they think of rehabilitation to improve an injury or some type of ailment. However, the world of physiatry is much broader than most people realize. It aims to find the root cause of the issue, provide an accurate diagnosis, and then evaluate the various forms of therapy which may be most beneficial for patients. Seeing a physiatrist can significantly alter the quality of life for many patients, including those with rare conditions like cerebral palsy and spina bifida. However, if they don’t know this type of therapy is an option, there’s no way for them to benefit from it.
It’s time to spread the word about physiatry.
What is physiatry exactly?
Physiatry is such a unique form of care because it focuses directly on the patient’s quality of life. After diagnosis, it asks the question- what is the most difficult part of living with your condition? With this information, physiatrists come up with a plan to help alleviate the most frustrating aspects of a patient’s diagnosis.
Physiatrists use a comprehensive approach to care, meaning they work with other specialists to make sure they’re prescribing the best possible option for patients. They also emphasize prevention by evaluating potential complications, side effects, and new symptoms a patient may experience. The goal is to mitigate future ailments in addition to improving the individual’s current condition.
Physiatrists specialize in neuromuscular and musculoskeletal conditions, spinal chord or brain injuries, cerebral palsy, and spina bifida.
How physiatry can benefit rare disease patients
Physiatrists understand that every patient, even those with the same diagnosis, need an individualized care plan. They may prescribe physical therapy, occupational therapy, botox, or mobility aids. They may also recommend that the patient see a neuropsychologist, speech therapist, nutritionist, or feeding therapist. Some physiatrists even run programs for helping patients deal with chronic pain, and transition programs to help children move from pediatric to adult care.
Especially for pediatric patients, physiatrists emphasize development in their treatment plans. Its not just about improving current function, its ensuring that the body and mind are prepared to handle the condition longterm.
I want children to see functional improvements before the message from society of ‘you can’t do that’ becomes engrained.”
It’s truly about teaching patients that they can do anything they put their mind to, they just may need to take a different avenue to get there.
The goals are to improve function, decrease pain, and increase quality of life for patients. If you are finding everyday tasks difficult, are struggling with mobility issues, or have muscle or joint pain due to a preexisting condition, physiatry may be right for you.
You can read more about how physiatry can benefit rare disease patients here.