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Little-Known Medical Field Treats Pain and Disability

From the New York Times

By DAVA SOBEL
Published: April 16, 1985

PAIN sufferers, accident victims, increasing numbers of patients who survive strokes, cancer and other debilitating diseases, as well as countless tennis players between the ages of 65 and 70 who insist on remaining active into old age are finding help through a little-known field of medicine called physiatry.

Physiatrists are doctors who rehabilitate the disabled. They treat everyone from the newborn with birth defects to people in their 90's with arthritis, trying to help each patient achieve the fullest possible life. According to the testimony of many of those who have turned to physiatrists for help, these specialists are extraordinarily effective.

Physiatrists prescribe exercise more than medicine, and routinely wean chronic pain patients off narcotics. Their focus is basically drug-free and nonsurgical.

In a recent survey of some 500 people with back problems, the physiatrist turned out to be many times more effective in the long run than either the orthopedist or the chiropractor for treating various forms of back pain. And yet physiatrists are relatively unknown.

Even the pronunciation of their specialty contributes to their identity problem: some say ''fizz-EYE-uh-trist,'' and some say ''fizz-ee-AT-rist'' in an effort to distinguish themselves from psychiatrists. Others go by ''doctor of physical medicine and rehabilitation.''

Read full article at the New York Times

Specializing in non-surgical treatment of low back pain, neck pain, carpal tunnel and sports injuries in Rhode Island (RI).

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