OPA Physician Q&A: What is a Physiatrist?

OPA Physician Q&A: What is a Physiatrist?

At OPA we know that surgery isn’t always the best treatment option for your unique lifestyle. That’s why we offer non-operative treatments like physiatry. Although, what is a physiatrist?

Here is your quick guide to physiatry written by the team of Dr. Eva Young, take a look!

What is a physiatrist?

Physiatrists are often thought of as the “primary care physicians” of orthopedics; when you’re injured or physically limited, a physiatrist can help to devise a treatment plan to get you back into the activities you love. Specifically:

A physiatrist is a non-operative physician that treats a wide variety of medical conditions affecting the spinal cord, nerves, bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, and tendons.A physiatrist is trained in physical medicine and rehabilitation. Therefore, therapy to rehabilitate the patient is common in a physiatrist’s practice. This rehabilitation often involves physical therapy and focused exercise to help the patient recover.Physiatrists differ from other orthopedic specialists because they focus on the entire body rather than just one body part, such as the elbow or knee. This holistic approach is valuable for complex or hard-to-diagnose problems such as leg pain, which may be caused by anything from a muscle strain to a spine injury.Physiatrists supervise or coordinate the medical professionals involved in a patient’s injury to ensure a seamless recovery. These professionals are often interdisciplinary and may include: physical therapists, occupational therapists, prosthetists, orthotists, psychologists, orthopedists, neurosurgeons, rheumatologists and neurologists.

What does a typical patient of Dr. Young look like?

Most patients that see Dr. Young have been experiencing persistent pain and would like to treat their symptoms conservatively, oftentimes in order to avoid or delay surgery. Some situations that Dr. Young typically sees in the office include but are not limited to:

A patient that is experiencing low back pain and has not had any formal treatment including x-rays or physical therapy might see Dr. Young in order to get a diagnosis and learn about possible treatment options.A patient that is experiencing persistent numbness or weakness in their upper or lower extremities might see Dr. Young for electromyography (EMG) or nerve conduction study in order to assess the health of muscle and nerve cells.A patient that has been diagnosed with a disk herniation or stenosis might see Dr. Young for consideration of epidural steroid injections.A patient that has been diagnosed with arthritis of the hip or knees might see Dr. Young for discussion of activity modification, physical therapy, and bracing in order to postpone a joint replacement surgery.A patient that suspects a tendon or cartilage injury of the shoulder, pelvis, or knee might see Dr. Young to pursue advanced imaging and a formal diagnosis in order to start physical therapy and/or decide whether a surgical consultation is appropriate.

What kind of treatment can Dr. Young offer?

Dr. Young is trained in several restorative techniques that she is able to offer to patients, but she also refers patients to other professionals when their skills are required.

Fluoroscopic guided steroid injections into the spine, hip joint, or sacroiliac joint. Dr. Young performs these injections at the Seattle Surgery Center with the help of a radiology technician. These injections are often used in response to pain due to a disk herniation, spinal stenosis, or joint inflammation.Radiofrequency ablation of the lumbar facet joints. Dr. Young performs these procedures at the Seattle Surgery Center for patients with persistent facet joint pain or inflammation.EMGs and nerve conduction studies of any extremity. Dr. Young performs these studies in our First Hill office in order to assess the health of various nerves and muscles. Often these tests are used to rule out diagnoses such as: carpal tunnel syndrome, cubital tunnel syndrome, tarsal tunnel syndrome, or other type of peripheral nerve entrapment or neuropathy.Medication management. Whether a patient has been experiencing their symptoms for years or for just a couple of weeks, Dr. Young is able to develop a medication management plan to fit their needs and lifestyle.Orthotics. An orthosis is a brace that increases the stability of the spine or extremity following an injury or disease. OPA offers several kinds of off-the-shelf orthoses such as sacroiliac joint belts, wrist splints for carpal tunnel syndrome, or knee stabilizer braces for arthritis. Dr. Young can help determine if one of these products is appropriate.Physical therapy. While pain medications, injections, and other techniques may be used to attend to the patient’s pain, Dr. Young often uses these treatments to help bring severe pain under control so that the patient can start to engage in and benefit from rehabilitation such as massage or physical therapy.

For more information on Dr. Eva Young, please click here.