What’s the Difference Between Physiatry and Physical Therapy?

May 31, 2019 | Back Pain

When you suffer a back injury or endure chronic back pain, you’ll probably be referred to a physiatrist and a physical therapist. If both are treating the same problem is it really necessary to go to two different specialists? The answer is a resounding yes! While there are many similarities between the practices, there are also important differences. Physiatrists and physical therapists bring their different skills to the table to work together for a well-rounded healing treatment for each patient.

What’s the difference?

The biggest difference between physiatrists and physical therapists is the amount of education and training they receive. A physiatrist is a licensed medical doctor that has completed medical school and residency training in the specialty of physical medicine and rehabilitation.

Physical therapists complete a three-year post-graduate degree in physical therapy and must earn their certificate. Both practices know the body’s musculoskeletal system, however, a physiatrist’s training allows for better knowledge about the structure and function of the body. Additionally, as licensed medical doctors, physiatrists have the authority to prescribe medication and perform surgical and nonsurgical therapies, where physical therapists do not.

Physiatrists and physical therapists working together

The roles of physiatrists and physical therapists come down to diagnosis and execution. A physiatrist will diagnose conditions and prescribe therapies that physical therapists will then perform. As you progress through therapy, the physiatrist will monitor your pain and the effectiveness of treatment and make changes accordingly. Physical therapy is much more hands-on because your therapist will guide you through the exercises and work through procedures.

Who to consult first

Before heading to a physical therapist, it’s important to consult with a physiatrist. A physiatrist will be able to accurately diagnose your back pain and suggest treatment options that will work best for you. After diagnosis, your physiatrist will suggest a team of healthcare professionals for treatment, which may include a physical therapist. During your first visit with a physical therapist, they may perform assessments to learn your strengths, weaknesses, range-of-motion, and more. Once you have both a physiatrist and a physical therapist, the healing can begin!

The best physiatrist in New Jersey

Finding a doctor that works for you is the most important part of your healing process. The physiatrists at Coastal Spine make it their goal to end chronic back pain and heal injuries, so patients may return to normal activity and health as soon as possible. With a focus on nonsurgical treatments and on-site physical therapy, Coastal Spine is a fantastic choice.

If you’re interested in making an appointment with one of the best physiatrists in New Jersey, contact us here.